Today, there are more women serving in and returning from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan than have ever before served on a US battle front. Although it has not been specifically mandated, more women have become directly involved in frontline combat over the course of the last decade.
This new reality for the US military and the women who serve in it has resulted in a host of issues that are challenging the government organisations that are supposed to serve them as veterans. In the past 10 years, the number of women veterans facing issues related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - such as substance abuse, depression and joblessness -- has more than doubled, while the number who are homeless is estimated to be over 15,000 nationwide.
It has only been within the last few years that the Department of Veterans Affairs (the "VA" is the primary US veterans' health care organisation) has recognized the seriousness of PTSD among women veterans.
One leading independent veterans organization recently addressed this issue at their national convention. "Female veterans have their own set of problems," notes American Legion National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission director Verna Jones. "They want to be recognised for the service we provided for our country. "Though some women veterans who come back may not have outside physical wounds, they have those invisible wounds of war that they have to get through. So many women veterans won't tell about the traumatic experiences that cause them to have PTSD."
In January 2011, the American Legion conducted the first female veterans' survey since 1985. More than 3,000 women vets responded. "What veteran women want is quality health care, affordable medications, and... equitable compensation just like their male counterparts," explains Jones, who says the results of the survey inspired a new outreach programme to support female veterans and "help guide them through the VA system"
About Al Jazeera - Witness
Rageh Omaar and Ghida Fakhry present Witness, a half-hour documentary series which features short, specially commissioned or acquired films gathered from independent filmmakers.
Each documentary reveals the unknown lives of ordinary people, following their lives, telling their stories and portraying the challenges that confront them. Our witnesses are people in a situation or those who have observed them first hand.
The films cover conflict, belief, the past, and the future and, as well as bringing new stories to light, they showcase the talents of a new breed of multi-skilled, frontline journalist.