When most people think of combat uniforms, motherhood doesn’t immediately come to mind. To accommodate this life experience, the United States Army finally made uniform adjustments suitable for new moms. Undershirts with an opening in the middle are now authorized for postpartum wear, greatly decreasing the amount of exposure we undergo during the feeding process. I am fairly certain most of the readers here have not experienced the wonderful pleasure (half-sarcastic) of breastfeeding before, but trust me when I say that having to pull your tucked-in shirt all the way up while in a stiff camo uniform is not ideal. Never mind having to unclasp your bra while your child wiggles ferociously in your arms, screaming hysterically because you are moving too slow. If you ever wondered why I don’t typically wear a bra, this is it.
Being a woman in the military is like accidentally walking into the men’s locker room: It smells really bad and everyone stares at you like you don’t belong. Finishing your service and leaving the locker room is another story. You fit in just fine—almost like you didn’t serve at all.
Wearing a shirt with the words “Operation Enduring Freedom,” Roberta Samples, 20-year Air Force veteran, walks into a restaurant on Veterans Day. The host looks at her, then at her shirt, and asks, “Is your husband a veteran?” Roberta retired 12 years ago and is asked that question to this day, regardless of the fact that the first female to enlist did so in 1917.
This could be complete bias here, but all veterans deserve recognition. Despite your view on the ongoing war(s), and those of the past, vets voluntarily leave their families and friends to defend our nation. They make this sacrifice regardless of gender.
To further demonstrate what that entails, picture this: seven months pregnant, still waking up at 6 a.m. to make it to physical training, working until 5 p.m. and then watching your husband load up on a bus to deploy. You agonize in 23 hours of labor, alone, spend six weeks raising that child, alone, then find a daycare because you have to go back to work, again, alone. Then, while at work, you have to pump your breast milk because breast is best, right? You sit in your car and try to quickly eat your lunch while a machine sucks your sore, cracked nipples into a little tube to give you one measly ounce of milk. One year later, it’s your turn to deploy.
This is not, by any means, everyone’s story…but this heart-wrenching story does belong to someone. When we make assumptions regarding gender roles in the military, we are doing a disservice to the women who sacrifice(d) just as much as the men, if not more.