BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out

Posted by YWM on April 25, 2011

BPW Foundation would like to indroduce a new every-other-week feature that will bring us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page. 

The Transition is Never Easy
By Patricia Johnson

As a Vietnam Veteran, I came home to a very unfriendly society who neither cared nor wanted to hear about my military training or experience.  Although I served as the equivalent of today’s executive assistant, the only work I could find when I returned home was as an assembler in a factory. 

After joining the US Army, I progressed in rank to E-5 (Sergeant) a mere  3 months after completing basic training.  My leadership qualities were recognized quickly and I was assigned to the position of squad leader in the 2nd week of training.  While serving in Kaiserslautern, West Germany, I was ‘Secretary’ to the Commander of the 21st Support Command, General Robert C. Gaskill.  During that time I accompanied General Gaskill to several high-level, critical meetings with government dignitaries from across Europe.  The work I did required extreme confidentiality and professionalism.  When I left the military, after my first husband passed away from liver disease he contracted serving in Vietnam, I had earned both the Good Conduct and Army Commendation Medals.

However, when I returned to civilian work, I had to struggle to get a job as a clerk typist.  Not a single employer that I’ve had since that time has given any merit to my military experience or leadership training.  Although I am now working as an executive assistant, as I look toward my retirement in a few years, I know I will receive reduced Social Security benefits because of the low-paying clerical jobs I have held for  many years. 

Along with several friends I was fortunate to learn about the Greater Cincinnati Women’s American Legion Post 644.  Although I joined the Legion several years ago, it was an all male Post and I found myself feeling very un-welcome, not only by the male veterans but also by their wives who did not feel it was “appropriate” for me to join the men during their meetings.  Since joining Post 644, I have learned about the many benefits provided to women veterans through the VA and other organizations.  I have immersed myself in the Legion and am proud to have been recently nominated for the position of Commander of our Post.  I have rediscovered the pride I once felt while serving my country in the military.

I applaud what BPW Foundation is doing for all women veterans through its Joining Forces for Women Veterans initiative and hope that through our combined efforts we can educate the young women returning from service today to better explain the education and training they gained in the military and stand up and promote themselves as the valuable leaders needed in today’s civilian workforce.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: