THE BLOG
03/18/2014 03:09 pm ET Updated May 18, 2014

Women's History Month: Honoring Our Nation's Women Veterans

As we honor Women's History Month, I want to thank the women who have served in the military. All throughout history, our women Veterans have taken on a variety of roles and ranks. They have served their country with the same commitment, honor and leadership as our men.

March is heralded as the month we celebrate the accomplishments of women. The United Nations has declared this year's theme, "Equality For Women is Progress For All." When we pause and think about the progress women have made in the military, they oftentimes still fall behind their male counterparts.

The number of women involved in the military, especially our latest two wars, and their impact is unprecedented. They do suffer from the same mental health readjustment issues as male Veterans, but these women also face different threats to their overall health, and reintegration back into society. The gender related issues that are prevalent among this cohort is beginning to raise greater awareness on all levels. Issues such as trauma exposure, sexual assault and harassment, and other stressors are all deployment issues our female Veterans have had to experience. Their expanding role in the military has resulted in both an opportunity, and a challenge.

The history of women in the military goes back to 1775 serving as nurses, aids, cooks, and other necessary domestic roles. It wasn't until 1976 when women were actually admitted into the military academy. When one looks back at American History, there were some women who actually fought in the Civil War, because they cross dressed as men in order to fight. However, it wasn't until our two most recent wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, where women actually served in combat. Some may feel this brings equality to the playing field, but there are other battles women still must face.

Women face issues such as sexual trauma (MST) that can cause them to experience deeper issues of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Statistics show approximately 1 in 5 women in the military will experience some level of sexual trauma. Also research has also shown that African American women are more likely to experience MST. We must institute safe guards to guarantee the respect of all members who serve for our country. More than 212,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 11 percent of the total deployed military force. Forty percent of active-duty women have children and more than 30,000 single mothers have been deployed to the war zone. (According to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America).

Other problems women face when they return from active duty is re-entry back into a normal family life and the challenge of finding a job. Some feel they even have less support and fewer services provided for them when they return home.

They continue to fight to feel like a veteran, and get the myriad of benefits they deserve. These issues way heavy on our female Veterans. Despite their service, and large number they are still less likely to get a job, benefits, and more likely to be a single parent.

Our female Veterans have sacrificed so much in the service of their country and deserve our highest and best upon their return. Along with the mental health issues our female Veterans are faced with, they continue to be one of the growing numbers of homeless Veterans in our country. They deserve a living wage, affordable housing, and the overall support they need to recover from mental health challenges.

We need to help break open the ceiling for women Veterans to succeed in the armed forces. If women decide to make the military their career of choice, they need to be given every right and opportunity as men, and be provided with support services when they return home in order to acclimate back into society.

Military observers will boldly tell you that today's women Veterans have influence far greater than the number of them in service. Consequently, that influence continues to grow. They have important leadership roles in uniform, and continue to be the anchor for their families and children.

We must continue to honor both the challenges women Veterans face, but also the leadership they possess. As we celebrate Women's History Month, let's not forget about the women who served our country proudly, and the leadership they provide this country as civilians. Their history and involvement in keeping our families safe is cause for us to celebrate and serve those women who served us.

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