Female veterans discuss their experiences in the military

Many people balance military service with parenthood. But having to breastfeed while wearing a bulletproof vest is an experience that belongs to a limited group of service members.

Amber Randall, a Hermiston Child Protective Services worker, remembers doing that when she served in the Air Force as a new mom.

Her daughter’s father deployed soon after the baby was born, and Randall had to go back into the field eight weeks later. She recalled one experience where she was on duty right after her maternity leave ended.

“I’m out here pumping breast milk in a temper tent, with my M-15 vest,” she said. “And I had to go to a porta potty and dump all that breast milk down the drain.”

According to a 2015 U.S. Department of Defense report, women make up 16.8 percent of the military, or about 357,276 members.

Three local women shared stories of their time in the U.S. Military. Though their service has spanned nearly 20 years and three different branches, they shared some challenges, as well as skills that have shaped their lives post-military. Some experiences, they said, are unique to being a female service member, while others united all those in uniform.

Randall enlisted when she was 17, in 2001. She said she joined the military to get out of a bad home situation.

“I grew up in a really abusive household,” she said. “Drugs, violence, domestic violence.”

She spent most of her childhood raising her siblings, but didn’t have any plans or interest in school. As a senior in