LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – They’re often known as the silent or invisible veterans, but the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports there are nearly two million of them living in America.
They are women veterans.
Women veterans said they often feel invisible because they’re not treated as equals with veterans who have seen combat, and that is exactly what Veteran and published author Lubrina Burton shared when she told her story.
Burton currently lives in Lexington, but she grew up in Knox County. She said at age 17, she saw a world of adventure when she saw women serving for the first time in the Gulf War.
In 1997, Burton decided to join the U.S. Army and became a specialist in the reserves.
“It was one of the coolest experiences of my life,” Burton said.
After driving trucks down in Alabama, Burton thrived off the comradery in the army and enlisted in active duty. She was then sent to Bavaria, Germany, where she worked in logistics.
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However, two-and-a-half years into her army career, Burton said it took a dark turn when she started to get harassed and propositioned by her platoon sergeant.
“I was scared into silence,’ Burton said. “He started retaliating against me and gave bad reviews of my performance. I was relegated to the back of my warehouse, and never given a chance to move up. Then, he gave orders to attack me.”
Burton said her platoon sergeant made it very clear to her how disposable she was, and she was beaten down physically, emotionally, and mentally.
“I thought I’d rather take my own life than they take it,” Burton said. “I wanted to take back control of my body because they were controlling my body.”
Burton’s experience is unfortunately common with other female veterans.
A 2020 Veterans Affairs Report said that 16 veterans commit suicide every day, and one-third are women.
Phyllis Abbot, executive director of Lady Veterans Connect, shared another alarming statistic.
“Most suicidal crises are brief, from decision to action,” Abbott said. “24% will make that decision in less than five minutes; 48% will make it in less than 20 minutes, and 71% in less than an hour.”
Burton would face this same crisis for years to come. She pursued a medical discharge and decided to return home to Kentucky where she finished her degree in psychology and Eastern Kentucky University.
“When I first got out of the military, I didn’t even know I had PTSD, it wasn’t anything people diagnosed unless you were in war basically,” Burton said. “Military sexual trauma wasn’t even a term then.”
Eventually, Burton faced her PTSD and had an epiphany.
“It’s a part of me,” Burton said. “I thought, ‘Am I just going to sit here and just remember things forever?’, and then I just knew I needed to write about it.”
That is when she decided she would tell her story in a memoir, and started taking writing classes at Carnegie Center in Lexington.
“I wanted to see something reflected about a woman soldier’s experience,” Burton said. “There was nothing written by women for women soldiers, and what we experience during peacetime pre-9/11. It’s a story about soldiers, friendship, surviving, and finding fun despite it all.”
Burton said her writing saved her and gave her own power back to tell her story.
“Despite the PTSD, despite all the bad experiences, I found comradery. If you ask me if I’d do it again, I would,” Burton said.