MONROEVILLE, Pa. (CBS Pittsburgh) – It’s more common than you think: female veterans like Aryanna Hunter rolling into a veterans parking spot at the store. “We look like a mom carting three kids into the grocery store,” Hunter told KDKA-TV.
She stands at 5’2″ and is expecting her fourth child.
“I joined the Army two months after 9/11. I was an 18-year-old kid. I didn’t really come from a family of service but 9/11 really inspired me to give back to my community and join so I did,” Hunter said.
She was stationed across the country, served overseas in Iraq and her military pride is evident. But she’s not proud of the stigma that veterans are only white men. “We see more people of color, we see more LGBTQ identifying veterans and more women who are serving,” Hunter said.
Now more parking spots for veterans are popping up, but with them come more harassment for Hunter.
“Men and some women have stopped me and said, ‘that’s for heroes only, you can’t park there.’ The first time I wasn’t very nice about it, I’ll admit it. I was very offended and said, ‘you are welcome because I did serve,'” Hunter said.
Even inside the store, the harassment doesn’t stop.
“A woman behind me in line said, ‘you can’t use your husband’s discount’ and I said, ‘ma’am, it’s my discount I served in the military,'” Hunter said.
Now women like Hunter are working to use these experiences as an education lesson.
“Overall, we are about 16 percent of the military, and we are the fastest growing veteran population,” said Marilla Cushman who’s the vice president of development at the Military Women’s Memorial.
The message is that times are changing, and women can do anything a man can do too.
“Veterans aren’t just someone’s grandpa, that it’s also their mom and taking that opportunity to approach a woman parked in a veteran spot will go a long way,” Hunter said.