As you think about America’s veterans this holiday, add a woman to the image in your mind. The fastest-growing group of people with past military service are female.
Among active-duty women, a 2009 report showed that about 40% are mothers. Their compounded sacrifices deservedly earn much of the media’s spotlight. Stories of women leaving children behind to risk their lives for the rest of us are beyond compelling. Scenes of tearful separations, and reunions, are universally felt.
Optics like those grab the heart, but fourth-grade math shows that a majority of women now in uniform — 60% — are NotMoms. Parade predictably titled a recent cover story on women vets: “What Did You Do In the War, Mommy?” Just when I’d decided there’s no way to measure my gratitude to those who serve, the article revealed eye-popping statistics about all the women in today’s U.S. military:
- The fastest-growing segment of the homeless? Female veterans.
- Women vets are diagnosed with mental health problems more often than their male counterparts.
- 357,000 women serve in our armed forces, which is 16% of the whole. (Back to that fourth-grade math, for the record, that’s 214,200 women without children.)
- The number of male veterans is going down; the number of female vets is climbing. Right now, Veterans’s Day salutes are aimed at more than 2.2 million women. Or, they certainly should be.