Today, November 11, is Veterans Day in the USA, a date set aside each year to honor everyone who served in the United States military.
Memorial programs and parades occur throughout the country in a formal effort to show the nations's daily appreciation and gratitude for the service of the citizens who stepped forward during war and peace. Individuals who never served in the armed forces greet the veterans they see with a warm "Thank you for your service." Veterans turn to fellow veterans and say, "Thank you for your service."
Everyday is a good day to express one's appreciation to a veteran, but Veterans Day adds the contagious energy of an entire population celebrating together.
My generation is one where just about every kid's dad and uncles served in World War II or Korea. I never met any of the women who served in those wars until I enlisted in the Women's Army Corps during the Vietnam War.
Based on what I've learned since then, I might have met some female veterans during my childhood and adolescence without realizing it because women are often less likely to point out their military service.
I like to think that is changing.
Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home. (2014)
In 2014, the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) released the landmark report, Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home, a comprehensive study of the challenges women face when they leave military service.
The study sought to "document the existing gaps in federal programs and services and spur policy changes to fill them...." Researchers discovered that "the stories and statistics...make clear that women veterans face a homecoming that is remarkably different than their male counterparts...."
Based on the research, the DAV issued a clarion call.
Our nation must address and change the culture that ignores or minimizes women's service and their contribution to our military mission, so that they too can fully benefit from the array of services that have been established for veterans..."
The 2014 report made 27 key recommendations.
Women Veterans: The Journey Ahead. (2018)
In September 2018, the DAV released its follow-up report, Women Veterans: the Journey Ahead.
The report examined both
The DAV also reminded readers that
Indeed, in 2018, women "...are the fastest-growing subpopulation of the military and veteran communities and comprise
But the systems to support women, including the more than half-million women veterans using VA services, have not kept up with the systems provided for men.
The result is an environment in which—whether intentional or not—women’s service to the nation is often less recognized, less respected and less valued than their male counterparts.
The issues addressed in the report range from comprehensive medical and mental health care to homelessness. The VA's familiarity with its patient population has been documented in clinical studies to achieve better outcomes than the private sector.
In a recent RAND study, only about 2 percent of private-sector providers had the knowledge and skills to provide high-quality care to veterans."
Perhaps the most disturbing finding in the 2018 report is the persistence of military sexual trauma. As the 2018 report states on p. 34,
The 2018 report made 45 key recommendations. As Joy Ilem, National Legislative Director of the DAV stated,
Although progress has been made in recent years, there remain longstanding, systemic barriers preventing many women from accessing the healthcare and benefits they have earned through their military service."
A New Generation.
A new generation of military women and men are blazing trails, making history, and doing their part to make the US military the best it can be. I thank them and the veterans who went before them.
Have you thanked the veterans in your life?
Perhaps you have a relative, friend, or neighbor who is a veteran. There's still time on this Veterans Day to thank them for their service.
And if you miss today, tell them tomorrow or the next day or the next. They'll appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Until next time, best wishes and good reading!
Lynne Schall is the author of three novels: Women's Company - The Minerva Girls (2016), Cloud County Persuasion (2018), and Cloud County Harvest (fall 2022). She and her family live in Kansas, USA.