"If I Wear My Hair Down, They Ask Me Whose Wife I Am"

As the year draws to a close, It’s a time to look back on things that happened over the past twelve months. Over the next few days, we’ll be revisiting some of our favorite stories from throughout the year, and seeing again what they mean for 2015 in review.

This story was originally published on May 22, 2015.



"If I keep my hair in a bun, it's a lot easier for everyone to understand that I'm a vet," says Katelyn Sheehan, 26, who spent four years in the Air Force. "When my hair's down, they ask me whose wife I am."

"That's not frustrating at all," she jokes.

Women make up 14.5% of the U.S. Armed Forces, and are the fastest growing group of veterans in the United States — and yet when we imagine what a veteran looks like, the image that comes to mind is not likely one of a young woman.

But that's changing, and fast. As previously off-limits roles in the military become open to women, the percentage of women serving in the armed forces is likely to rise. Additionally, an ongoing and increasingly public debate about the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault might finally, glacially, be starting to change the military's culture to make it more welcoming for everyone.

In honor of May — a month set aside to remember and celebrate the men and women who've served in the military — we asked seven women vets a simple question: "What does a veteran look like to you?" The women we spoke to had very different experiences in different branches of the Armed Forces, but a few things unite them: They acknowledge the difficult, sometimes traumatic, parts of serving, but remain proud of their time in uniform. And, they all agree that it's crucial that this nation starts improving its treatment of all veterans returning from war.
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