A Salute to Success: A female veteran's new uniform
Most women have a favorite pair of jeans or dress that fits just right. Some of us keep a special suit in our closet, the one we pull out and wear for important events, such as an interview or a big work presentation. And then, there are a few of us who have a handful of military uniforms, rolled up, and neatly tucked away in an old duffel bag in our spare closet or garage. Like me, most female veterans look back fondly on those days and think, “I loved wearing that uniform!”
It's not because it was flattering or had an abundance of pockets (which was handy at times). Or, because in one sense, wearing a uniform made life easy since we knew exactly what to wear — a huge time-saver when getting ready in the morning!
The love and pride we feel for the uniform is rooted in what it represents — duty, honor, and country. Nearly everyone knows exactly what a military uniform means. A level of expertise, integrity, and rank is conveyed in those stitches.
Generations of sacrifice and commitment have affirmed this positive perception. According to Pew Research, military service ranks at the top of the list of most admired professions in public opinion surveys. Fundamentally, a military uniform tells the world you raised your right hand and took an oath to defend and protect our great nation. After 9/11, I raised my hand and volunteered to serve my country in uniform.
During my ten years in the U.S. Army Reserve, I took that uniform to places all around the world, which included serving two combat tours in support of the Global War on Terror (Iraq and Afghanistan). What I learned along the way is that the uniform also took me to new levels, as a leader and as a person. Wearing a uniform was a privilege and there is no substitute.
When veterans move on from their military service, they step into a world that requires a completely different wardrobe. Knowing there are more than 44,000 female veterans in Tennessee (according to the U.S. Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs), the YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee wanted to reach out to this group of women. As the local affiliate for Dress for Success, we are launching an annual event that focuses on suiting female veterans — A Salute to Success.
This cause has been embraced by other Dress for Success affiliates across the county. During November, the YWCA is partnering with Operation Stand Down Tennessee to recruit our first 50 female veterans.
Volunteers, including Tennessee’s Commissioner for Veterans Services Many-Bears Grinder, are working with former service members to find the perfect civilian ‘uniform’ at our Dress for Success Boutique in East Nashville.
With their new uniforms taken care of, female veterans can focus on presenting the incredible attributes they gained from being a soldier, sailor, airmen or Marine. When they go into that interview or start that new job, they will be propelled by the confidence and pride that is part of their very fiber—they are veterans. Even without the military uniform, they will always stand out because they bravely answered the call to serve.
Marjorie K. Eastman is president and COO of the YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee.
About Dress for Success
Dress for Success is a program of the YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. Contact us if you are interested in donating or volunteering: www.ywcanashville.com.