Monday, August 20, 2018

Military Service, Field Jackets, and Asshats at the Airport

February 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Bras & Boots, Most Recent Posts

I teach at a mid-size north-eastern university. I like to use lots of real world examples in class, and I often talk about personal experiences we all may share in order to illustrate ideas and concepts. However, as much as I talk to students about real life issues and personal experiences, I am VERY protective of my military service. Most of the time, my students do not know that I am an Army veteran. I do not disclose this information very often because I am destined to be disappointed by the questions and attitudes that accompany such a disclosure. One has to earn the right to know that I am a veteran; I don’t throw it out there casually.

It’s a strange thing to be something that you are not supposed to be. I was challenged in an airport for wearing my field jacket – some middle-aged pink guy asked me “where’d you get that jacket?” and I knew he had some fantasy that he was harassing some under-patriotic thrift-store scumbag. When I said “Fort Leonard Wood” he didn’t even know what that meant! He was confused; thought I was reduced to gibberish in the face of his awesome stand for America. It pissed me off that someone who probably had no military service was questioning mine, and that he was questioning it only because the body before him was not what a soldier was supposed to be; young and male.

I am very proud of my military service. I was a good soldier and a good NCO. Joining the Army made me a better person. But I am so resentful of the crap I have to wade through – the expectations and assumptions that people have about women in the military; the questions people ask me that they would not ask a male veteran. Even the most well-meaning people often have a political agenda behind their polite curiosity. I am constantly torn between setting people straight (it’s exhausting) and just letting them keep measuring out that rope. I think there is a gigantic disconnect between the ways that women in the military are represented in the media and understood in the public sphere, and the actual lives that they live. I think it’s ludicrous (and cultivated public ignorance) that people question the suitability of women in the military and women in combat. The only person that should be questioning the suitability of women in the military is, wait for it, a woman in the military. Not some asshat at the airport.

With all that said, I think it is extremely important that we change the public understanding of women in the military. Anytime someone compliments me on my work ethic, my leadership, my drive, my sense of service, my problem-solving skills, or my willingness to help, I make sure they know where it came from.


16 Responses to “Military Service, Field Jackets, and Asshats at the Airport”
  1. Steph Schneider says:

    I’ve had similar situations happen to me. I was in a hospital after drill one day because a buddy in my company and his wife just had a baby. I was waiting for the elevator and I heard two WOMEN talking about me. “Is she in the Army?” “Why would she wear camo if she’s not in the military?” So I turned to them calmly, “Yes, I am in the military and have been for over two years now.” They were stunned and didn’t say anything until a man turned to me and said “Thanks for serving.” I just couldn’t get over two women were enabling the negative behavior and comments that female services members receive.

  2. Carol says:

    Great story! I understand where you are coming from, I get the same type of responses. Especially because I too work at a University. A university is probably one of the hardest places to find others that truly understand your pride and commitment to serving your country. Keep it up, keep your head up and thank you for your service to our country.

  3. Craig says:

    I agree with almost everthing. We should all be appreciated for what we are or are / have become (ing). We also need to be patient with those less informed. As a 30+ year veteran I am still surprised when people say they can’t serve because they “could never shoot anyone” ( Who can?) or “don’t want someone telling me what to do” ( clean up on aisle 3) to “Don’t want someone telling me how to dress” ( Would you like fries with that?). Anyway, we can ALL serve. We can ALL contribute. Someone will ALWAYS be an ass.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Awesome blog. Your last paragraph summed up so much for me as a 19 year and still going Army woman.

  5. Carol Shade says:

    I had a similiar experience, I’m a disabled veteran and had taken a friend of mine to bail her son out of jail a few years back and was parked in handicapped parking. The police called twice into the waiting room for the person parked in the handicapped parking space to move their vehicle. I told them both times I was not going to move my vehicle, that I had the right to park there; they finally demanded to see my ID and I had to show them my VA ID card and drivers licence showing that I was the veteran and had the handicap. Another time I was parked at a shopping center and a lady stated ” I can’t stand people like you who park in handicapped parking spaces” I told her mam, go look at the back of my truck, it says disabled veteran”; she apoligized and said “thank you for serving our country” There are different types of disabilities and I don’t feel the need to explain to everyone why I’m parking in handicap parking, I’ve paid the price and live with limitations everyday of my life and served my country in the Navy. If I were male, it would have been different, but I’m still thankful for the opportunity to have served, but I get tired of ignorant people sometimes.

  6. Loretta says:

    I was attending a Memorial Day service. They were singing the National Anthem so I saluted like all of the other veterans. Afterwards, I had several older veterans approach me and ask why I was saluting during the service.
    They told me that only veterans had the privilege to salute during the National Anthem. I had my feelings hurt and but I held my tears and I proudly told them that I was a veteran of the military and then politely handed them my retired ID card. I served during Vietnam got out for 13 years and then re-enlisted in the Florida Guard. Now I am retired and PROUD to be a veteran.

  7. Tammy says:

    Unfortunately, this is all something I’ve come to expect from the “outside”, but I was shocked when it came from our own. We moved into base housing (my husband is civilian) and the people across the street came out to meet us. The (male) captain asked my husband where he worked, he said Napa (auto parts) and he was confused. Then he and his wife asked…”So who’s in the military?” Really, you have 2 choices and it wasn’t him. That was 11 years ago, and I still hear similar comments from within the military and from outside.

  8. Karina says:

    It is bothersome…myself and my husband were a dual military couple but when both of us were together in or out of uniform I would be ignored but people all the time, VFW soliciting memberships, people asking questions about his service and the best: MPF where I had an appt and signed in with my name and he was in civilian clothes…they ignored me and started asking him questions, he had to tell the airman 3 times it wasn’t his appointment but mine.

  9. Diane says:

    I totally resonate with your story. I am proud of my Military service but like you only the people who deserve to hear about it do, that is untill recently, I now run an organization that helps Vets and their families deal with PTSD. We are Vet run organization, people still do not understand I am a Vet.

    I was helping with the DAV’s distribution of for-get-me-nots, when a lady came up to one of the male Vets and started pumping his hand and saying thank you and I am proud of you (good for her). But when the male Vet point at me (wearing a Army Veteran hat) and said “she is a Vet also” the lady got flustered and ran away.

    Another time I was wearing my Patriot Guard Vest at a VFW, on which I have my Big Red One Patch (1st Inf Div). A Vet at the bar asked “who gave you that patch?” I told him “my company clerk”, he said nothing.

    I dont think the public will ever get it.

  10. VJ Pulver says:

    I have amany tales I could share concerning my life as a career active duty wife and mother (1978-1999). I’ll share an upbeat one. My civillian spouse was submitted for spouse of the year at the base I was stationed at. When he won, the base commander presented my big, burly spouse with a beautiful bouquet of roses and made some silly remark like, “If I had know a guy was being honored I would have presented you with a set of socket wrenches.” When the laughter settled down, my spouse just said, “Thanks Sir, but my wife is the mechanic in our family and I love the roses.” The audience was floored and after a pause they stood up and applauded my spouse. I still get overlooked and have to speak up – people always assume my husband is the retiree…sometimes I respond with a crack like< "I'm the MSgt Sir, now drop down and give me 50…move it, move it, move it." It gets a laugh and they get my point.
    MSgt, USAF (Ret)

  11. Shel says:

    What gets to me is that for civilians, not connected to the military, our service and everything about it is ethereal and academic, like the arguments of the pundits on TV. I was asked the other day, “What do you think of war?”
    WTF, over? It must have been something on her mind, but what can you do? I guess that’s why we get strong; so we can control the urge to chew butt.
    Another thing is the instant anger I have when something I feel strongly about is brought up in conversation. I would like to be able to fit in as a non-odd person. I was in a job interview today and it was going well and he asked me what I would do if I caught someone stealing. All of a sudden I start going off about how it would cause distrust and punishment to everyone. I don’t like to go from 0-60mph emotionally like that if I don’t mean to. But I think he liked the emotion regarding the subject.

    Cheers to us because we keep trying and we totally rock no matter what.

  12. Anne says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve not had as many negative experiences as some of you, fortunately! I have faced confusion from people who don’t understand at first that I’m a Veteran. And I do get strange looks from the really old Veterans at the VA. It’s a novel concept for the older generation. To be fair, most of the oldest Vets did not serve in gender-integrated units since this didn’t happen until about 1977, and to this day, Combat Arms guys still do not serve alongside women. So I do not fault them or people who only know about the military from guys of that generation.

  13. Invisible says:

    I keep it secret too, because my work later HATED me for it but loved the men who served. If I mention being in the service old men get pushed out of shape, hitch their pants and say I was a “WAVE”-hardly. They get defensive, stick out their jaw and say “In what war?” I was in for 6 years, my ex husband did 3 before I joined. Like you said, he got all the attention while I served.

    I had serious injuries while serving which were played down by the Navy; my military occupation was construction and combat, but I was told not to bother filing any claims when I got out. My husband was told the same in his era.

    Back to the point: since male vets obviously feel threatened by female vets, where can I find an understanding female VSO who’s been through the worst also to help me with my claims?

  14. I understand the hardships of being a woman in the military. I was in from 86 to 94 and was deployed to saudia arabia for 12 months. When I got out I went on with my life, ended up a single parent and did what I had to do. About 1 year ago I went to a weekend here in CA called Vets journey home, it changed my life I realized that although I have been out of the military for a long time I never truly made the transition. The staff and instructors are mostly vets and that made me comfortable. Don;t worry we did not sing kume by ya…lol it was a great experience and I feel like I am truley home now. Its a great organization and the weekend is free for vets they have them all around the country.l check it out if you can…also we are haveing a all woman vets weekend in wisconson in august this year. thanks for your service

  15. John OB says:

    Devil’s Advocate:

    you’re not supposed to wear uniform pieces (field jacket) with civilian clothes.

    I caught hell from someone for wearing a vietnam era M65 field jacket (OD) at school while i was serving in the guard, i wasn’t wearing my woodland camo issued M65 with my patches and rank…. but still i caught some grief for it (AS a young male)

    now, as a 40y.o. honorably discharged veteran (who can no longer fit into his woodland M65 issued at 18…. the damned things shrink over time!) i’ve been considering going to a surplus store and getting an M65 that fits…. and maybe even throwing some patches on it… Woodland has been phased out by now, so there shouldn’t be any issue….

    AR 670-1 covers the rules of wearing uniforms for separated and retired personnel, as far as i’m concerned, i’m not bound by any AR… so, wear your jacket wherever you want, make snarky comments back to asshats who can’t mind their own business and drive on 🙂


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