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‘Women are veterans’: Air Force vet calls for respect

Posted at 8:15 AM, Nov 12, 2021

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — Patricia Timberlake-Turk recalls a sexist remark from a fellow veteran that she says couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I was told at the VA one time to ‘shut up’ (and) that I wasn’t a veteran,” she said.

She’s a Vietnam War-era veteran who rose to the rank of sergeant. After enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in 1974, Timberlake-Turk worked in avionic communications. She says one of her assignments took her to Athens, Greece three days after the embassy in Tehran was taken.

“And our airplanes flew over Tehran, collecting the intelligence,” she explained.

“A good reference of it is when in the movie Argo when Ben Affleck said that they’re getting their intelligence. That was coming from our airplanes,” she continued.

It was an exciting mission that was eventually referenced on the big screen.

However, she says her very presence in the military didn’t garner the same appreciation at the time.

“So, I went in at the very end of Vietnam and there was a lot of upheaval still, especially with women going into service and not having to go because of the draft for the men, and I went into a career field that was a very male career field,” Timberlake-Turk recalled.

According to Pew Research, data from 1973 reveals women enlisted in the military accounted for 2% of service members.

In 2010, that number rose to 14%. Other sources indicate women in the military have risen another 2% to 4% in the past decade.

Timberlake-Turk reached out to 7 Action News concerned about adequate Veterans Day coverage of women who’ve served in the military.

For one reason or another, she says society generally fails to properly recognize female veterans’ contributions. Case in point, assumptions people make about the Air Force logo on her license plate.

“I have veteran plates on my car. I get out of the car and they say, ‘Well, thank your husband for his service.’ And I’m thinking, ‘It’s my car,’” she explained. “I am touchy about that with me being a veteran and everything.”

“Also, when I go to the VA hospital for service, which I do, they say, ‘Oh, are you here with your husband or a family member getting service?’ And I say, ‘No, I’m doing it myself.’ And they’re a little bit taken aback,” she described.

All she’s requesting is the proper respect and for people to stop making false assumptions.

“Women are veterans,” she said.

Timberlake-Turk says she has several family members who serve or have served, including three other women who are active duty. She encourages other women to sign up and says there are great benefits, from the GI bill to health care.