Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Veteran’s Day

A few years ago I made a documentary short “Women’s Wars: A Primer.” The movie was about women serving in the US military, focusing on the stories of the women veterans of New Mexico. Turns out New Mexico has the largest population of women veterans in the US. And what a group they are.

I met women who were in every branch of service. I met women who were nurses in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. I met women pilots, guards, translators, Army supply truck drivers, a logistics officer, all of whom fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. I met Native American, African American, Latinas and white soldiers.

I explored with these veterans why they chose military service and what they loved about their time in the military. They shared their challenges, including discrimination and sexual assault. Returning to civilian life also posed great challenges for many in the form of PTSD and fighting for the benefits they are entitled to receive as veterans who have served their country. Some are now homeless.

My goal was to make a full length documentary, but the recession ultimately diverted my plan despite the support of so many. I was devastated for a while, but came to understand that the short itself had served a good purpose. I submitted testimony to Congress explaining the issues faced by women. I was able to use the documentary short as an educational tool, showing it in local theatres and to various groups. It was shown on an air force base to help prepare women leaving for combat areas. You see, while technically women are not allowed to serve in combat zones, they do since our modern wars have no clear lines of demarcation.

They told me they were honored to share their stories and thanked me for my support and recognition of their service.

I know I received the greatest benefit. I had the opportunity to meet these strong, skilled, courageous, funny, loyal women who were open and gracious with me in sharing their stories.

So on this Veterans Day, I thank all veterans male and female who have served their country well. I honor you. You deserve our thanks and you deserve the benefits you earned. And  I offer a special thank you to the women veterans of New Mexico for their service and for honoring me with their stories. What a privilege to meet you all.

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