BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Women Veterans Speak Out: I’d like my own Social Security Number Back Please

Posted by YWM on May 14, 2012

Read the latest article in BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.

Returning guest blogger, Elizabeth McLean, an Air Force Academy graduate who has transitioned into the civilian world in search of fulfillment after serving on active duty for four and a half years tells her personal story.

The transition from the military world to civilian culture is undoubtedly a difficult one for a female; everything from fashion to finding your proper place in a community seems challenging. You are peeled away from the rigid military environment and asked to flourish on your own in a society that fails to understand the path that you have chosen. The trials and tribulations of opening your eyes to a new chapter are difficult, but what compounds it even more is when you leave the military and are still connected to a spouse who serves. The question is how do you find a balance of being a veteran and a military spouse at the same time?  How do you come to terms with the fact that you are now identified by your husband’s social security number?

One obstacle can be the already formed spouse club that you are asked to join in order to support your husband.  Here we need to get around stereotypes by both groups.  It is often perceived that military spouses do not particularly enjoy the company of female service members. Spouses may view the military women as a threat and not respect the fact that the woman is serving in such close proximity to their husbands is just about business.  Military woman conversely may unfairly assume that the spouses are women who have decided to live through their husband’s careers and restrict themselves from exerting their own independence. When these stereotypic worlds collide female veterans can feel ostracized and lonely and guilty about not supporting her husband.  As  an ambitious woman adjusting to her new civilian work day, she cannot stand at the bake sale in the middle of the day. This leaves her alone, looking aloof and not supportive of both her husband and her fellow spouses. Just one more barrier to building new relationships.

Additional barriers are the new base restrictions and “dependent policies” the veteran must follow. Suddenly the reality hits that when you have medical or personal affairs that you are no longer “allowed” to take care of without the authorization of your husband. The irony has been laced with frustration when a woman who once led hundreds overseas, is no longer permitted to be responsible for her own dental records or make a doctor’s appointment for her sprained ankle. Those who have

Photograph by Collin Krauthamer

been military spouses for a while are accustomed to this way of life, but for the woman veteran the word ‘dependent’ has never really been in her vocabulary. Bottom-line, in the mind of the veteran is…if Rosie the Riveter can be a cultural American icon and flex her abilities, so can prior service women.

Being that the military still defines the husband and it is a fine line of trying to not shun the military husband from his squadron with your standoffishness, is the answer to bake the cookies and send them with your husband to show you still care about his career? Reach out to the spouse club and offer your words of wisdom on what a deployment is truly like? Let down your own defenses and judgments and ask the civilian spouses what it is that fuels them in life?? Perhaps the answer is to truly define your new self with your civilian pedigree and let pride roll off of your shoulder with what you have done in the past? Perhaps it all boils down to communication and learning from each other.

Regardless the answer, the women veterans must realize that just because you don’t salute the 4 star anymore…doesn’t mean you stop being motivated or that you love your husband any less.  You’ve bridged gaps with logistical nightmares in foreign countries….is it that difficult to bridge a gap amongst the world of spouses? Having pride in independence is perhaps a trait you can help others to appreciate in your new social circle…


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