We asked a few women veterans one question and one question only:

What are things only women who’ve served in the military would understand? 

Denyse GordonDenyse Gordon (at right), who served 12 years on active duty as a US Air Force Reserves Master Sergeant and is featured in the film Served Like a Girl, writes:

“For those with longer than shoulder length hair – we know how to master the art of the bun! (Our hair.)

We all had marks on our legs from our socks.

And our boots left imprints from the laces and browsing straps.”

L. Schulze, retired combat veteran, USAF 1997-2014, writes:

“Sending the new person/troop [out] for things like flight line, chem light batteries, and Fallopian Tubing.

Double takes when the helmet/gear comes off after arriving at a FOB and they realize you’re not a ‘short dude.’

Attempting to find the female latrines on an Afghanistan post/base (there aren’t any).

The looks on people’s faces when they find out that your MOS [Military Occupational Specialty code] includes Food and MORTUARY (the running joke was it was because of the refrigerators…)

Walking a fine line between ‘firm’ and ‘bitch.'”

Julia R., former Staff Sergeant US Army, Texas:

“Wearing dog tags causes a black mark in the middle of your bra. It’s irritating and impossible to get the stain out.  Black bras are better for wearing under camo uniforms, but back in my day they were not regulation.”

Anirak Torres, U.S. Marine Corps., Cpl. E-4

“I joined the United States Marine Corps in 2007 when I graduated high school. I remember telling my recruiter I wanted to be infantry but apparently at that time they weren’t really letting females do that job. He told me that I could be a ‘Grunt on wheels’ and so I picked Motor transportation 3531. The Marine Corps is the best thing that happened to me [but] I did have some troubles throughout my time… In basic training, I fractured my femur which delayed me from graduating. I was in boot camp for six months until I finally got better and graduated.

“My first duty station was Okinawa, Japan which I was part of 1st Mar Div. I then was attached to another unit and we were deployed to the Philippines as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. When I returned to Japan I was able to be part of jungle warfare training–which at the time a lot of females weren’t doing. That year I was one of about eight females to go through it. The only reason why I got out of the military was for health issues. Along with the injury I sustained during basic, I also have herniated disk and sciatica which make the physical aspect of being a Marine hard. I’m currently a disabled Vet and will always love and adore the Marine corps til the day I die.

Anirak Torres, in the Marines
Anirak Torres, in the Marines

“Being a female Marine I remember the drill instructors tell us ‘the hair fairy better come at night or something because I want perfect buns in the morning.’ It was funny because all the girls would either do their hair the night before and sleep almost sitting up to not mess it up or get up even earlier so our hair was perfect. There are few Marines out there–[and] even fewer female Marines!”

Hope Garcia, master-at-arms, US Navy, and featured in Served Like a Girl:

Hope Garcia
Hope Garcia

“Being Military Police I thought I’d come at it from the grooming standards side. All branches say we would love to wear a high and tight, but being as we are women, it’s just not in our nature normally. So with it comes bobby pins, the hairspray, the specific color hairbands, and did I mention the ‘hair-sock.’ As an MP I had to keep my hair in regs all the time and after standing watch for 12-14 hours, you’re asking yourself if the hair-strands are sticking out by then.”

“Skivvies, Gee-dunk, Cup of Joe, Scuttlebutt, Head:
All slang used by my fellow shipmates (and yes I said shipmates–I still go old school! I know we are Sea Warriors now but I will always in my heart see you as my shipmate!)”

“Clothing:
As most of you are familiar with I am not only a full-time mom but I’m big in the pin-up scene, and I believe in body positivity. So I recognize all shapes and sizes and ethnicities. With that in mind, I shop for all my pin-up clothing custom-made at a really good price for events or competitions and even military balls through Ains & Elke Stylehaus. I believe in helping small business and she is prior Navy as well, and we have become close friends. Embracing who you are, and feeling comfortable in your own skin, feels even better when you can wear something that has a unique style and era from the 1930-1950’s.”

“Something I wonder that a fellow sister of mine was telling me the other day, how often do you walk in the VA or a store and you’re wearing military-affiliated gear and they ask you, or tell you, ‘Thank you for your husband’s service?’ This happens all the time to many veterans I know and I just want to say you’re not alone, you are recognized and we hear you! I thank you for your service my sisters!”

Now share your own, ladies of the military. Use the comments below.