Served Like a Girl premiered at SXSW last week and it is a documentary that follows five female veterans and how they create a sort of sisterhood to help the rising number of stranded homeless women veterans. We got the chance to sit down with a some of the female veterans and filmmaker Lysa Hayland Heslov.
Heslov’s friend told her about Miss Veteran America which is a competition and pageant for female veterans. It highlights their courage, strength, and intelligence but also reminds us that they are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives. The documentary follows these veterans as they help with homeless vets and prepare for this competition. “I thought what a brilliant way to tell these women’s stories and go on this journey with them as you’re leading up to this great competition,” explains Heslov. The competition is about raising awarness and funds to homeless female veterans so it all ties in.
The story of female veterans is not an easy story to tell. Although they have served and fought for their country, once they become vets medical care and the government kind of tosses them aside. Marissa Strock who served in the United States Military describes it by saying “We’re a used toy now.” They received all the care and everything they needed when they were in the service, but once they were done serving, they were done with the help.
To say that the treatment of veterans is frustrating and wrong is an understatement. It is pretty obvious as to why these women wanted to take part in a project like this, “We were able to tell our story through our own words and no longer have people to talk for women veterans who have no understanding of what we actually do while we serve and the sacrifice related to our service and also our struggles once we take the uniform off,” says Jasboothe who served in the army for 17 years and is currently a major in the reserves.
Many of these women started serving because it was essentially a family business, their parents are in it, their grandparents were in it, and their kids are in it.
Some had other reasons: “I was just tired of where I was, I was working 120 hours a week – 3 jobs – and I wasn’t going anywhere, I wasn’t going anywhere fast,” says Hope who served 11 years in the Navy, “if I was going to keep doing what I was doing I would have gone down the wrong road. […] It turned out to be something I was good at, and I knew that I was in the right fit once I joined.”
Jasboothe grew up in the projects of Chicago and she wanted to show her son that just because she is a single mother doesn’t mean she can’t do what other woman or man can do. “I look at the military for one of the toughest professions in the world and I wanted to show my son that I can do it, and now he also serves his country,” explains Jasboothe.
It’s a struggle to say the least, wanting to fight for your country but then after fighting for your medical benefits which is why films like this are important to get the word out. “I feel like the military mirrors American society, I think we still have a long way to go in American society when it comes to women and so we can’t get there in the military until we first get there in the country that we serve,” says Jasboothe. Hopefully films like this will give our country a little push in the right direction.