Knoxville, Tenn., Local 760 member Lindsay Long serves on a national women’s veterans committee. She enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1977 at age 17.
When 17-year-old Lindsay Long enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps back in 1977, a woman’s role in the military was far different than it is today.
“It was peacetime and we were perceived differently than the men. I was called a ‘Woman Marine,'” said Long, who just celebrated her 50th birthday. “Today, women in the Corps wear helmets and armored vests, carry weapons and serve on the front lines.”
Long, a member of Knoxville, Tenn., Local 760 and a chemical operator at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, served just one year in the service. But the experience left her with a deeply ingrained empathy for women in the military and inspired her life-long dedication to improving the lives of female veterans.
“Women have been retiring from the service or coming home from war for decades with a set of challenges that male veterans don’t have to face,” Long said.
In September, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki appointed her to a two-year term on the federal government’s Advisory Committee on Women Veterans. The committee, formed by Congress in 1983, assesses how the VA deals with women’s issues and recommends ways the agency can improve. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan mean a record number of female veterans are seeking assistance from an already overloaded VA health care system.
“There is an influx coming into the system because of the current conflicts overseas,” Long said. “The VA isn’t prepared and doesn’t have enough manpower to serve the special needs of women.”