Today, November 10th, is the 243rd birthday of the United States Marine Corps. In August 2018, the Marine Corps celebrated 100 years of women serving in the Corps. The Marine Corps has a distinguished history securing freedom on land, air, and sea.
I am proudly a woman Marine veteran.
Unfortunately, many women veterans who served in the five branches of the U.S. military, our service is often forgotten or overlooked. As Sarah Maples elaborates in her article, The Inconvenience of Being a Woman Veteran, women veterans are mostly invisible in our country.
But this week something historical happened. An exciting change that is worthy of recognition and acknowledgement. The highest number of women veterans ran for local, state, and national office ever in the 2018 midterm elections.
There are three reasons I find this is compelling and inspiring.
When I was in uniform, barely 5% of Marines were women. There were no women Marine pilots. One of my responsibilities was assigning new officers to flight school. I never saw a woman’s name on my roster. I recall that the intense debate centered on women lacking the strength, intelligence, and grit to be combat pilots. Women just couldn’t handle an F-18 Hornet (fighter aircraft) let alone the rigors of battle were the frequent justifications to keep women out of the cockpit.
In the midterms, many of the women veterans who ran for office were combat pilots. They flew helicopters or fighter jets in Iraq or Afghanistan. Several women are combat-wounded having lost limbs while executing their missions.
Through their service in roles once closed to women, they dismantled barriers while still facing and navigating obstacles that are the “norm” for every woman who serves.
Women veterans are invisible. A common question we get is “What branch did your husband serve in?” Rarely are we asked, “What branch of the military did you serve in?” There are many women who served during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Invisible. Today, thousands of women veterans with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan are invisible.
With the history-making number of women veterans who ran for office—whether they won, lost, or races are still too close to call—the visibility is inspiring for women veterans. With elected leaders who’ve traveled in our shoes, our issues and needs can be included in policy-making and budget decisions. This visibility counts for our healthcare, mental health, housing, education, job-reintegration, disability support, and other service related issues that women veterans uniquely face.
Work Together. Get the Job Done!
A military mission has no political party. Our women veterans who will assume public office understand this. Women veterans bring to elected office several important perspectives. Women veterans know how to work together to complete a mission. There are critical solutions needed to address issues in our country. Women veterans are trained to accomplish the mission by evaluating multiple concerns and setting a path of action. From a gender perspective, women view solution-finding from a holistic perspective. Women collaborate, include different voices and perspectives to find common ground. We work together to get the job done. Our country needs this dynamic leadership more than ever.
As our sisters-in-arms take office or recalibrate for another run, I trust that women veterans will see the incredible value in our service and sacrifice. I trust that this great country will recognize that we have women warriors among us whose sacrifice is instrumental to maintaining the freedom that we all enjoy. Our leadership as women veterans is valuable and critical to discover and implement solutions.
Jenny DuFresne, CEO, DuFresne Solutions Group, a training and leadership development firm helping leaders and teams grow people, profit, and impact. Jenny served for 10-years as a U.S. Marine. Learn more at www.SeekLeadership.com.