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0830 Monday morning, and the clinic is filled to the brim with veterans. They are almost all over 60 and male. As soon as I walk in, I can feel the curious stares. Maybe it’s the oatmeal my 2-year-old dumped on me this morning, or the circles under my eyes?
I knew I should have had that second cup of coffee. Oh coffee! I saunter up eagerly for a cup. The looks continue. I get it, they think I’m in the wrong place. Or I just came in to siphon some free coffee and run. I suddenly have the desire to announce to the room that I have come for my checkup. Maybe I should lie and tell them I’m there for a pelvic exam, that’ll teach ’em.
It’s a strange thing to be a young female veteran in a Veterans Affairs clinic (Read: What You Need to Know About Healthcare After the Military), at least out in my neck of the woods. If you are a female vet, you already know the experience from active duty.
Well, it doesn’t end once you get out and transfer to the loving arms of the VA. If anything, it’s a bit worse because there is a whole generation that is simply not used to seeing women as fellow service members.
Most of the vets I meet in the waiting room are kind and filled with some amazing history. They also tend to think I am at the clinic with a grandfather, dad or husband. Some days I let them. And then there are the days that I feel a little spunky.
So women, here are some tips to prepare you for a trip to the VA clinic:
Wear a sign
Nothing fancy, some cardboard will do just fine, think apocalypse announcement style. Write on it carefully, “I have come only for your free coffee.”
Consider it a conversation-starter.
Oh, you could go with something that brings awareness to the history of women’s service in the armed forces, but where’s the fun in that? I suggest something more entertaining (it is a waiting room, after all). An informational pamphlet on Satan has never proved to be boring.
Stand by the bathroom
Knock loudly and say you think your husband flushed himself down the toilet.
Know how to answer questions
Where’s your husband?
I don’t know. He’s probably off somewhere where they don’t ask him for his wife’s current coordinates.
Who is your sponsor?
GoDaddy, but I’ve got a clear spot on my car.
Do you work here?
Yes. Are you here for your colonoscopy?
In the end, female VA patients shouldn’t be afraid to talk to those older vets. They usually have a lot to say and have some great stories. Although we may not fit into the mold of what they envision a veteran to look like, we are nonetheless part of a new generation of veterans. Be proud and REPRESENT!
READ NEXT: Apply for VA Benefits Online