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The Times recently asked servicewomen and veterans to share stories about their military service for a project planned for today, International Women’s Day. I wasn’t surprised that we received more than 650 submissions to our reader call-out. But reading the dozens of accounts that poured in each day filled me with a renewed sense of appreciation and frustration for these women’s service. Too many had to force their way into an institution that has been designed for and upheld by men for generations. Too many were told they didn’t belong. And too many felt the physical and mental consequences of disrupting and threatening the male-dominated status quo in ways that should have been punishable — and yet were repeatedly ignored by senior military leaders.
This collection of stories is both a celebration of women’s military service and a reckoning of what they’ve endured. It’s also a recognition that the military still has a long way to go before we see any real resemblance of gender equality. As Capt. Ja’Mia Rowland wrote: “I have become accustomed to being the only person in the room who looks like me.” You can read her story and 39 others here.
The Times also asked readers with a woman in their family who serves or served to tell us about that person. Here is a selection of those responses.
My Mother Recruited Women in the Marine Corps During World War II
Jill Hardy, Temecula, Calif.
My mother, Doris Van Meter Peterson, will be 100 this year. She joined the Marine Corps at the beginning of World War II and was the face of female Marines — she was instrumental in getting women to join. She met my father, Clifford O. Peterson Sr., while stationed in Atlanta, in 1944. She still lives in the home she shared with my father. She is an amazing woman who volunteered at a hospital in Redding, Calif., until four years ago. She only had to stop because she had fallen and broken a hip — while sweeping the front steps. Backward!
People Constantly Mistake My Mother for a Spouse, Not a Veteran
Randi Mahoney, New Boston, Mich.
My mother, Amy Hodge, was attached to the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum in New York, during which time she deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia. She told me that while there she pulled over 300 dead bodies out of a river that were contaminating the local drinking water; she was involved in firefights; she held a friend while he died. The biggest challenge I’ve seen my mom face is the lack of recognition that she even served. When she walks into any veteran event or local post, she is instantly written off as a wife, and her stories and experiences are ignored, even though nine times out of 10 she is the most badass person in the room.
My Wife Has Become a Role Model for the Next Generation
Dr. Anne Harrington, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
My wife, Col. Brenda Cartier, is the first female senior military leader in Air Force Special Operations and one of the first women to fly and command Special Operations combat missions. Brenda flew the AC-130 gunship, one of the deadliest aircraft in the Air Force. In 2003 she was in a gunship overhead during the rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, the first successful P.O.W. rescue since World War II. Brenda is an amazing spouse and role model to L.G.B.T. airmen. We actually get stopped in public by young people who recognize her and thank her for being so out and open about who she is.
When My Daughter Joined the Air Force, I Compiled Advice From Other Women to Guide Her
Capt. William Salvin, Dripping Springs, Tex.
I’m a captain in the Navy Reserve. My daughter, Paige Skinner, is a public affairs officer in the Air Force. When she was commissioned, I wanted to give her advice, but I knew that my experience as a man in the military would be vastly different from hers. I sent a note to the amazing women with whom I served over the years, put together a book of advice from them and gave it to my daughter.
Upcoming At War Event
ATLANTA, GA. // MARCH 19, 2019
Join us at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., to hear experts explore Georgia’s role in dealing with the unconscious bias veterans confront in the civilian workplace. Panelists include: John Ismay, At War staffer for The Times; Vivian Greentree, Navy veteran and senior vice president of global corporate citizenship at First Data; Jason Dozier, Army veteran and director of program operations and evaluation at Hire Heroes USA; and Ginger Miller, a disabled veteran, veteran’s spouse, business owner, chief executive officer and founder of Women Veterans Interactive. Lauren Katzenberg, editor of At War, will moderate the discussion. R.S.V.P. here.
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