By India Shields (Senior)
The military is grueling for anyone that chooses to join, but to be a woman in the military, there can be additional obstacles.
Jovita Shields, Tracy Windley, and Joselina Pannell are all women that have taken on the brave challenge of defending their country.
Jovita Shields, an Army veteran, tells of how the military changed her. “I learned a lot about my drive and
ambition and a lot about discipline.”
Shields was deployed in Afghanistan and admitted that being there was quite the struggle for her. “We were surrounded by mountains and unfamiliar territory. It was very depressing. Always being on alert can take a toll on both your mind and body.”
Even though Shields enjoyed the familial atmosphere the Army provided, when her son died while she was in Afghanistan, she knew this was not the most important thing in her life. “I was on the other side of the world and not able to help him. I lived and breathed the army. After that, I decided ‘no more’. Time to hang up the boots. I didn’t want to lose any more children.”
Tracy Windley, a retired Army veteran, had a similar experience to Shields. She found the military to be a lot more than she expected. “I expected it to be easier. Physically it was easier but mentally much harder.”
But when Windley’s boyfriend was killed in Iraq, she understood that was not the environment to grieve. “I didn’t have time to cry. I had to soldier on like everyone else. I had to pick up my butt and keep it moving.”
Even through their loss, they also experienced discrimination based on them being women.
“When I was pregnant, I got onto an elevator with two officers. They made comments about my pregnancy. Saying ‘when you get pregnant you don’t have to do any work. Always taking the easy way out.’ But I always did what I was expected to do, even when I was pregnant. I didn’t let that stop me from doing my job.” Shields said.
Even Windley had a troubling experience with discrimination. “They want you to prove yourself, even overcompensate. I was made to carry things that would require multiple people by myself. I had to prove myself and it hurt my pride and hurt me physically.”
Although Shields and Windley had some unsavory experiences during their time in the military, not all women receive this kind of treatment. Joselina Pannell, a Senn ROTC instructor, only spoke positively about her time in the military.
Pannell describes her time as ‘fulfilling’. “I saw some great place like Korea, Japan, and Hawaii. I even met and formed wonderful friendships with people from all walks of life.”
Though Pannell did not experience loss or discrimination during her time, she experienced something that many other military personnel experience. “A very defining moment for me was when I met my soulmate, my husband Marcus.”
All three women, different in their own respects and defined by their experiences, can all agree on one thing. They couldn’t imagine their lives without being a soldier.