Tag Archives: Veterans’ Day

Happy Veteran’s Day! You Don’t Exist!

I received a message on Facebook today (my personal account, not FWD/Forward’s account, which is not currently being updated because *ahem* Facebook seems to refuse to fix their blog importing tool and I can’t keep up with manually posting it every day…but I plan to try… /Facebookrant). It was one of those “fun meme” invitations, asking me to participate.

“Change your profile picture!” it said, “For Veteran’s Day, it would be great if we all changed our profile pictures to a picture of a veteran!”

How odd…said I. I haven’t changed my profile picture in almost a year…

It continued: “It doesn’t have to be a picture of your husband! Just any picture of anyone who has or is currently serving would be great, and a great way to honor our veterans!”

I might have just deleted it except for that last part. It doesn’t have to be a picture of your husband…

I think about how many times I would attempt to do anything official on the phone, and would asked for my husband’s social, instead of the sponsor’s (that is military speak for the military member who sponsors the dependents for benefits).

I think about how many times I would pick my kid up from daycare after PT, in my full Navy PT gear, and someone would ask me if my husband was in the Navy.

Mostly, I think about the way that the VA is still scurrying to keep up with the care that women veterans need. Some put the number from Iraq and Afghanistan alone at 200,000 active duty women, excluding National Guard and reservists. Women are left behind, with no resources, or resources scattered so far and away that they are inaccessible to those who need them most.

Which is why pieces like this one from NPR kind of really irk me, when they seem to mislead broad audiences. Somehow trying to imply that that the VA is some kind of miracle worker, reaching out to every woman veteran who is in need of services, and that they are meeting the diverse needs of women veterans. It is putting up a lovely window dressing on a filthy, dirt covered window, making sure enough of the filth is smeared out of the way so you can see a very narrowed scope of things from your apartment. The fact is they are hardly meeting the needs of their male veterans, in the ways of mental health, or meeting needs in a timely manner at all. Women veterans, however, are not having their needs met. They are missing the same marks with women, but completely whiffing on things like women-specific health, military sexual trauma, and accessible centers. We could ask Ruth Moss about all the extra ways they failed her, or the homeless women veterans with children who have no where to turn because the closest facility that can help them is a thousand miles away, and usually isn’t run by the VA anyhow.

Today I went to a Veteran’s Day Ceremony here on our base. I won’t go into details about how the President — who is here in Korea — was supposed to be there, or how they changed it at the last moment. I watched as VFW representative,s dressed in their various hats, went around and thanked the collected men in uniform in attendance. I stood there, a (friend’s) baby strapped to my chest, while my daughter, in her Brownie uniform, handed out  programs to the guests.

I was just another wife, with a gaggle of girls around me. Taking up space, snapping pictures, getting in the way. It never occurs to anyone that the passel of wives standing around may also have served a purpose in the peace that is being observed. We are unremarkable, though something to be glared at if our baby starts crying while the General is speaking.

The VA is not making progress towards addressing the needs of women. And they won’t because our society doesn’t recognize us. Women — wives — are mutually exclusive from veterans and servicemembers.

We are invisible. It’s like we don’t exist.

Cast in Bronze

Yeah, I know that this guy’s uniform is jacked up. I know you can’t wear your collar standing up like that no matter how cold it is, and that your pockets are decorative only. Were I doing an inspection, The Lone Sailor here would probably not pass. He would be called to re-inspect later.

But I marched past a replica of this statue every day for some of the longest weeks of my life. He was a proud symbol of everything we hoped to achieve, and everything that everyone before us had achieved. It was an image we had hoped to live up to. A symbol of what it meant to be a Sailor. To wear even the lowest uniform and to even be graced the swab the decks was to be a proud member of the United States Navy, and that alone was worth singing “Anchors Aweigh” with a hoarse throat.

The Lone Sailor statue is cast from the hulls of ships long past, giving it the truth behind that sentiment. Lives lost and watery graves. Also, strength of the future. A symbol of strength that will endure the weather, a hint that from here on we would be perpetual, like the water that carries our ships.

Being a Sailor meant more to me than I ever expected, and no matter what happened since, it is something I will always carry with me. It was a part of me, and it continues to be, like that damned statue w/ his jacked up collar and his damned hands in his damned pockets. I have pride in that part of my life, no matter how it ended, no matter how it was cut short. No matter how the career I wanted was yanked out from under me and no matter how I feel betrayed by the very body that carried me through those days of training and “snow watch” at Great Lakes, I was a Sailor, it is a part of me that I treasure. It is a strength that can not be taken from me.

I hope that you get a chance to pay a thankful word to a Veteran today (or tomorrow depending on where you are). Whether a thank-you for what they have done, are doing, or will do (because, Active Duty are Veterans too), remember that their service meant something to them in some manner also. It wasn’t just a pay check or a call to duty. In some way it became a part of that person. It wasn’t just a uniform we put on or stamped dog tags. It was a part of our person. Something we will always carry, but not like a weapon or a line. It changed us. In our very inner most being, it changed us, hardened us and gave us the strength of dozens of ships to endure, even if it isn’t obvious to one who hasn’t served.

You don’t take that off.

It is cast on us, like bronze.

Cross posted at random babble…