I think finally after trying to navigate the last 15 years after my military service, I might have begun to better understand not only how much my military life has had an impact on my life but just how much a Veteran truly needs the Veterans Administration and other organizations to help all Veterans when we return to civilian status.
If only I could impress upon each and every one of you to understand that the things that we go through as soldiers, marines, and sailors, even as Women – it is not the same life or even culture as what a civilian goes through who has never served in the military or perhaps even beside the military. It is an entirely different dynamic in a separate and different world. To use and visit with a civilian doctor who has no understanding of the various toxic exposures, the vaccines, the physical environments and the emotional stressors too, means that our concerns go unaddressed – why? Because they, civilian doctors, do not know how to address our issues. They are too compartmentalized in Western medicine practices to comprehend most comprehensive military service complex medical issues. They perhaps do not understand that there may be a likelihood that the titanium in my knees could be polluting my system and affecting the way I feel. If they do not understand that then what else do they not understand?
Fortunately, my most recent interactions with the VA are showing some progress in a very positive way. The VA has Women Veterans Coordinators at the VISN level as well as the local level. In my own discussions about my healthcare needs, I am coming across VA workers who are Veterans themselves who all too understand the complexity of treatment and they have the same problems too. At least we have each other who understand that we are not alone so as we grow in our voices and raise concerns and work on issues then this helps resolve their concerns too.
On another good note, there are nonprofits like Grace After Fire which can help us navigate life outside of the VA too. I went to an event held in Arlington, Texas last weekend. It was such an amazing day! I met some really special ladies who indeed I call friends now and I left feeling encouraged that there are other organizations who specifically help Women Veterans. You can only imagine how much I think this would have helped me after I left the military. Even 15 years later this kind of event has made a difference on my life. Boots to Heels is another organization who can help make that transition from being a “soldier” to being a working woman in the corporate world. You see, it is easy to lose that “refinement” of a lady when you work in combat boots every day, or you lose how the concept of wearing makeup and feeling “pretty”. I realized on Saturday that it took me 10 years on my own to get to that point. Only in the last couple of years have I finally figured out how to dress professionally outside of wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
You are probably wondering – What is the point of all that I bring up though? I’m bringing these things up because women veterans are different. We have different needs. We have different demands on our lives – children, homes, work, church, and service opportunities. Our bodies are different too so if we fail to address our emotional needs to complement our physical needs, then there is a big part of our needs not being addressed – by the VA, non-profits, and from our own perspectives too.
I just wanted to simply report, from my female perspective, that progress is being made post-military for women veterans. Sometimes it may come from just opening yourself up to attending an event like I did with Grace After Fire. In fact, I went to serve – only to discover that I ended up being served. So, if you are a woman veteran and if you need help, go ask questions, go to some of the meetings you see for different organizations. While one organization might not be the kind of help you need, don’t give up. There may be another that can and will better. The biggest thing is to just not give up on yourself.
There is a life after the military – you just have to figure out what is the best life for you!