Recently passed laws have allowed women to join all combat roles in the United States military, yet many people still do not recognize just how many brave women have contributed to keeping our nation safe. Despite her brave actions serving the nation, Rebecca Landis Hayes recently faced a great deal of criticism for daring to claim that she was a veteran. However, her reaction to the person that assumed she was not a veteran showed both intelligence and class in the face of sexism.
It was a horribly hot and sunny day in Concord, North Carolina, when Hayes encountered the rude stranger. She went to her local Harris Teeter, yet she could not find any parking spot remotely near the building. When Hayes spotted a “Veteran Parking” space that was open, she was happy to get a nice parking spot and see that Harris Teeter supported and respected the nation’s veterans. After finishing her grocery shopping, Hayes returned to her parking spot and was shocked to find an offensive note on her car.
Someone had messily written a note anonymously that shamed and berated her for using the space. The note said, “This parking is for veterans, lady. Learn to read and have some respect.” Apparently, someone saw the petite blonde woman and assumed that she could not be a veteran because she was not a bulky old man. Hayes decided to use her Facebook page as a public platform where she addressed the cowardly writer of the note.
In her post, Hayes starts out by making it seem like she is about to apologize for using the veterans spot at the Teeter Harris grocery store. However, she then says “I’m sorry that you can’t see my eight years of service in the United States Navy. I’m sorry that your narrow misogynistic world view can’t conceive of the fact that there are female Veterans. I’m sorry that I have to explain myself to people like you. Mostly, I’m sorry that we didn’t get a chance to have this conversation face to face, and that you didn’t have the integrity and intestinal fortitude to identify yourself.”
This clever post does not just defend Hayes right to use the veteran’s parking spaces. Instead, she uses this situation as a teaching opportunity to show how much sexism women in the military still face. Despite her lengthy time with the Navy, Hayes still has to deal with people who dismiss her courage and dedication just because she does not fit their narrow and bigoted idea of what a veteran ought to look at.
Eventually, Hayes post was seen by the person who wrote the note. The person has chosen to remain anonymous, but they did write an apology, stating that their note was a momentary “error in judgement,” and the writer says “I appreciate your service to this country and I highly respect military men and women. Hayes Facebook post may have been short, but it helped to change the viewpoint of the person who assumed that women could not be veterans.