"People don’t know: What is a female veteran? What does she look like? What does she bring to the table? What did we do over there?”
That's how veteran Julie Weckerlein described her experience after returning home from duty to NBC News in 2012. Weckerlein's right -- not enough people understand the impact female veterans have had and continue to have in the U.S. military.
Since 2001, women have joined the armed services at higher rates with 280,000 women serving in the military. In 2013, the Pentagon lifted the ban on women in combat allowing service women to fight on the front lines. Despite the ban, many women served in combat for over a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And still, our cultural idea of what a person in the military looks like has simply not caught up to the reality.
"Being a woman hugely affects my identify as a veteran," one respondent said in a June 2015 survey conducted by The Mission Continues. "It's a regular thing to be told I'm too pretty to have served in the military, let alone at war. I've been told I couldn't possibly have any issues relating to war since I was a female and couldn't possibly have experienced anything but rainbows and sunshine while deployed. I've been called a liar."
Veterans of all genders too often come home to unemployment, homelessness and horrible medical care. But female veterans usually experience it worse than their male counterparts.
One in four Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals don't have a full-time gynecologist on staff. On a single night in January 2013, 4,456 female veterans were homeless. Women in the military experience a much higher risk of getting sexually assaulted than civilian women. This added trauma can make the transition back to civilian life that much harder.
So today, on Veteran's Day, we've rounded up 33 photos of women serving their country to honor the service women that are often missing from the common image of a military person. The photos show women training on base, fighting in combat and reuniting with family members.
These are what servicepeople look like, too. And this Veterans Day, along with every other day of the year, we honor them.
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