When was the last time you were at a street fair and you approached a table set-up for a Veterans Organization. Did they hand you a membership application to join the Auxiliary? How many times has this happened to you when you expressed an interest in joining the organization? Too many times? Yeah, me too. And I'm sick of it. Why? Because I don't belong in the Auxiliary. I belong in the main organization. I AM A VETERAN. I AM A WOMAN VETERAN. HEAR ME ROAR. (Thank you Helen Reddy) How dare the men who sit behind the tables and "man" these booths assume that I am not a Veteran. The wives are just as guilty. They assume we want to be in the auxiliary with them. Sorry ladies, I'm a Veteran myself. I have nothing in common with you. I'm not the wife of a Veteran. I don't know how to communicate with you. I don't want to swap recipes with you. I don't want to swap stories with you. I don't have pictures of children to show you. I need to share with other Veterans who understand me. I want to talk to women Veterans who are MST Survivors. I want to know how they deal with male Veterans on a day to day basis in VSO's where the men don't want us.
This is a common problem. I received an email from a friend of mine who told me a story about one service organization who tried to recruit her husband into the main organization while was being recruited into the auxiliary. When she corrected the "recruiters" and told them SHE was the Veteran, not her husband, they not only apologized, but they offered her one year of free membership. They were so impressed by her she ended up being an Officer in that particular organization. If all the organizations admitted to this mistake and offered free memberships they'd go broke!
What about the service organization that is now targeting women? You know the one I'm talking about. They have a big push now in their attempt to recruit women. Their recruiting efforts target ALL women. It isn't until you start digging deep that you realize it isn't a NEW organization. It's one of the big three and they are targeting women who have served in Iraq & Afghanistan. What about the women who served in Vietnam, WWI and WWII, Panama, Grenada and other places women have served. And let's talk about my favorite ... the forgotten group of Veterans. Veterans like myself who served in Germany before the wall came down. Cold War Veterans. We used to joke that if the balloon went up we had less than three seconds to put ours heads between our knees and kiss our asses goodbye. We saw death on the Fulda Gap. We saw death on the Czech border. We saw death when terrorist groups were killing our GI's in Frankfurt. Remember Badder-Meinhof? Remember the Red Army Faction? Remember when General Alexander Haig was on his way to his retirement ceremony in June of 1979 and terrorists tried to assassinate him? Do you remember SMLM Vehicles? I remember all of that. I was there and so were thousands upon thousands of Cold War Veterans who served in Europe. Yet our service isn't good enough to be considered "combat service" for entry into this particular VSO. I've commented to their website and asked about it. My comments didn't even make it past their moderator for posting. Yep, another case of second class citizenship... this time by other women Veterans. Disgusting.
It's not just the service organizations that treat us this way. It's the VA Hospitals that treat us this way. We're tired of it. I'm tired of it. A couple weeks ago I went in for a CT Scan of my lungs. I specifically requested an all female team. The consult was written that way. When I was taken back to the exam room, a female student handed me a gown and told me to change into it. I looked over to my right and there was a male technician in the room. I asked, "Who is he and what is he doing in here?" The young student told me, "He's the technician." I looked around and there was no changing room. I was expected to change into the gown with him sitting right in the next room with nothing but a glass window separating us. Screw that. I told the student, "Get rid of him, he's not doing my scan and I'm not changing with him in here." She went in the next room, said something to him, I could see her shrugging her shoulders, and then he opened the door to the hallway and apparently called for someone else. The student came back into the room and told me it would be just a few minutes because he was "doing something important". I could see what that "important" task was. He was browsing the internet, looking at airplanes online. The student asked me if I was going to change into the gown and I told her I was not changing until he was gone. It made me wonder, how many women changed while that jerk sat there in the next room? How many women thought they had to change and couldn't ask for a woman technician? Second class citizens? You're damn right we are. Speak up, Women! We don't have to stand for this. We have rights. The young student who was assisting with my CT scan may have not known it, but I sure know it.
These days I don't leave the house without my service dog, Rocco. I can't. I have PTSD because of things that were done to me by male GI's. Does that mean I hate all male Veterans? No. It just means that I am wary of them. It means that I can't be in a crowd of people anymore. It means that I can't stand to have my back exposed anymore. It means that I hate leaving my house. I'd rather stay at home 24/7 where I feel safe. On those rare occasions when I do leave the security of the house, I have Rocco at my side. He's still in training and he has a long way to go but he makes me feel safe. Still, I have to deal with ignorant and rude comments from the public. The worst comments are from male Vets at the VA Hospital.
When Rocco and I go to the VA Hospital, why do Veterans feel the need to try to distract my dog? One ignorant male Veteran had the nerve to roll up next to me and told me, "You're petting your dog wrong." This particular Veteran had "fuck you" tattooed on his thigh in two inch letters so I'm sure he wasn't offended when I told him to "Fuck off and mind your own business." I get Veterans asking me if I'm training my dog to give to a Veteran. What the hell? I AM a Veteran. Why do they think I'm standing there waiting to be seen?
Just trying to get the VA to pay for Rocco as my service dog has been a battle. Is it because I'm a woman Veteran with a service dog? The guy in prosthetics told me it couldn't be done and argued with me. I left prosthetics vowing to prove him wrong and before I'd left the hospital that day he'd called D.C. and found out I was right. He left me a voicemail telling me I was right but never once apologized. Would he have treated a male Veteran the same way? Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill because I have a problem with male Veterans and this jerk is a former ring knocker?
In case you're wondering, I haven't named any of the organizations I'm ranting about because I'm sure you all know who they are. I don't need to call them out by name. They are also the same service organizations who offer their assistance with your disability claims. I say, let us help you help yourself with your claims. No one cares about your claims as much as you do, right? (Here comes the plug, folks.) Go to Jim Stricklands A to Z Guide for all your disability claims issues and questions. If that isn't enough for you, than go to our Straight Talk Forum. We can help you. Guaranteed. You'll get personal attention like you'd never receive from any Service Organization.
C'mon, women. Speak up. Talk to me. How tired are you of being treated like a second class citizen by the Veterans Service Organizations, the Veterans Hospitals, the Veterans Administration, and other Veterans both male and female. Can someone please tell me why the service organizations keep trying to push women Veterans into the auxiliaries instead of letting us join the main organization where we belong?
What we need is a Service Organization where ALL Veterans are welcomed. Is there such a thing? Is there an organization where women Veterans won't be pushed into joining the Auxiliary? If there is such an Organization name it and I'll title my next blog after you.
Until the next time ....