This past June, I remember watching a news story about Rebecca Landis Hayes. Hayes, a veteran of the US Navy parked in a Veterans parking spot and when she returned, she found an angry handwritten message that read “This parking is for veterans, lady. Learn to read and have some respect.” Hayes took to social media and wrote an apology stating -“I’m sorry that you can’t see my eight years of service in the United State Navy. I’m sorry that your narrow misogynistic world view can’t conceive of the fact that there are female veterans.” The person apologized, but the experience disappointed Landis-Hayes. She said, “My being a female, somehow meant I couldn’t be a veteran.” This absolutely infuriated me. But then, it hit home while running a 5K race for a fallen solider.
I was running with my Team Red, White and Blue Teammate Jimmy. Jimmy is A) male B) an amputee and C) a civilian. We wore both wearing our Team RWB t-shirts and I was running with Old Glory. As we ran the route, we heard lots of clapping and cheering which of course, kept us going but as we turned the corner to get on Kearny Avenue we heard ‘Thank you for your service, Brother”. Jimmy looked at me, not knowing what to say and I responded with a kind “Thank you, Sir. I’m the Veteran”. The person said nothing in response and Jimmy apologized. My response to Jimmy – “It happens all the time”.
It is interesting to me, that still in this day and age, the civilian population commonly thinks that veterans are men who served in one of the wars like Korea, Vietnam, or the Gulf. Listen up folks, we are women and yes, we are Veterans! We come in all different shapes, colors, sexual orientation and races. But better yet, we all did the same thing – THIS WE’LL DEFEND!
Women in the Military have served proudly since the Revolutionary War, where we dressed like men to fight, Nurses, that tend to the injured during the Vietnam War, and now three incredible women wear Army Ranger tabs. We are mother, wives, sisters and partners that do not need to carry our DD-214 in our purses to prove what we have accomplished.
“Let the generations know that women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom. That our resolve was just as great as the brave men who stood among us…. That the tears fell just as hard for those we left behind us.” — Women in Military Service for America Memorial, Washington D.C.
On November 12th, come see how beautiful our Veterans truly are at our third annual Operation: Makeover at the Westfield Garden State Plaza. The YWCA Bergen County, Team Red, White and Blue Northern Jersey and the Westfield Garden State Plaza invite you to come and honor our Servicewomen and Men.
Do you know a servicewoman who is transitioning back into civilian life, or who is in need of a morale boost? Operation: Makeover will be providing nine servicewomen an opportunity for a day of hair, makeup and fashion styling services free of charge. Click here to nominate a servicewoman (or to self-nominate) now through October 15th. For more information, contact Samantha at 201-345-1895.