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For My Fellow Veteran Sisters - by Jeanine McNeill

The story below was sent to me this morning by one of our WVoWTX sisters. It had a deep and profound impact on my heart as I read of her words and thought of so many of you who I have (and have not yet) met. There is healing in telling your story. Thank you so much Jeanine, for telling your story, for allowing me to share it and for the impact your words can have to help others. S. Byard


When my granddaughter sent me this photo I was struck by a range of emotions, from scared to the utmost pride. The hat that she is wearing happens to be mine! Though it is actually part of an old costume, she thought the hat was the military cover that was issued to me in the service and referred to it as a crown! Such a darling child, my granddaughter is one of the most important people in my life. That she would regard a military cover as a “crown,” my feeling of pride surpassed even the crown that actually sat on my head as a contestant for “Miss New Mexico.”


I told her how much this meant to me. She understood. So for those of us who may have suffered some pain from our military service, (we have all borne our share), this can be vanquished by a renewed sense of honor, grace, and dignity.


Of course, there were the incidents during my time in the service that disheartened me; the dreams that inspired me, shattered by the misconduct of a superior officer. It has been painful. For thirty-four years I have been hiding behind the camouflage of colors that represent the army and our flag, always wishing that my dreams had never been taken away from me. Yet that doesn’t matter now.


Today I have a new set of dreams that are greater than anything I could have imagined before my enlistment so long ago. My deepest wish is such that the military will always be a safe place for young women to begin their journey in life. As I looked at my granddaughter’s photo of wearing the “crown” I realized that all us who have served our country have paved the way for young women to realize that this is not just a “man’s world.” Women are just as capable of being service members as anyone else. We all joined for different reasons yet share the same purpose: to earn our place in this world and to do something honorable and meaningful with our life.


With the death of our fellow sister, Vanessa Guillen — that she was brutally murdered after reporting herself as a victim of sexual harassment — we are coming together in support of her. Her tragedy has inspired us to put forward our own stories, to make our voices heard. No longer do we need to feel ashamed. We can finally earn the respect that we deserve. We must do this — not only for us — but for our daughters, our granddaughters, and our nieces as well. These young women are looking at our example to follow. I thank my beautiful granddaughter for reminding me of this and the path that is opening up to a brighter future for every new generation of women. Jeanine McNeill


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