I cried when my sister enlisted in the Navy. I mean boo-hoo, ugly face, deep-from-my-gut cried. I thought the worst. Working in media, I was privy to horrendous photos and reports of casualties and warfare that sometimes never made it to the public eye. All I could see was her face there, her name, in some report about a bombing or attack. It haunted me. I wanted her to go the typical route my brother and I had taken: high school, college, good job … in that order.
But she decided to take a different path, and in the end it was the best thing she could’ve done in her life.
She had many challenges being a woman in the armed services, yet she triumphed. We were always prissy girls, more into playing dress up and getting the latest fashions than getting our hands dirty. We both hated gym class and would always borrow — OK, she sometime took— eachother’s clothing, makeup and accessories. After enlisting, she was able to swim miles and do physical things that even as kids, we’d never even think to do. She learned discipline, traveled the world, and was able to make connections with young servicemen and women who will forever be bonded by their experiences.
Not everyone can handle the everyday looming threat of death or injury, or being away from their family, spouses, and children for months at a time. To have to remotely manage where your children will live, monitor who will take care of them, or worry about their well-being can be quite the challenge when it comes to focusing on national security. Also issues with equality when it comes to rights, assignments, as well as personal safety within the ranks, are still top concerns dating back decades.
After serving her term, my sister was able to return to school and graduate. She managed to use skills she’d learned while in service to balance parenting and pursuing career dreams she’d had since childhood. I admire her strength, her courage, and the woman she has become due in part to serving in the Navy. I’m older than her, but—as cliche as it sounds—she’s a hero to me.
She learned a lot about herself and how she could push beyond her limits, both vital to making it in a world that is often unfair for women. In the armed forces, women are not given a pass, both emotionally and physically—even if they have issues that men will never face. She, along with her fellow servicewomen, pulled through.
So, today, I salute all in the armed forces— but especially my ladies, who have to juggle protecting our country with managing family life at home, without any excuses or special treatment. They are mothers, wives, entrepreneurs, and public servants (add to that butt-kickers, strategic planners and forensics experts) and many do it with style, glam and class to boot.
As the fight still continues for women to gain equal status in the military —and other industries—I am proud of my sister and all other women making yet another sacrifice for the betterment of the world at large.
If you are a woman who has served or is serving in the armed forces, I want to hear from you. What were some of your career challenges?#SoundOff and hit me up on Twitter @JPHazelwood.