GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Every veteran has different stories and experiences from their time in the military, but one female veteran said she wants to make sure future women in service do not have to face similar challenges that she did.

Theresa Robinson joined the U.S. Navy in 1974 when she was 18 years old. She left Grand Rapids and headed to Florida to attend Navy A School and she was excited for the journey ahead. 

“My mom’s crying, my aunts there crying,” Robinson said. “And I’m thinking, why is everyone crying? I’m going on this cool adventure. I’m so excited.”

When she got there, she discovered why her relatives were so concerned. 

“It was a different world,” Robinson said. “I had to figure out what to wear while I was walking to work so as not to have all the cat calls.”

In some cases, she was required to march in heels and wearing red lipstick was a part of her dress uniform. She and her fellow women in the Navy were unable to carry or shoot guns and Robinson was only on a boat once. 

“You didn’t question that. It just, women just didn’t do that. The girls didn’t go aboard ship,” Robinson said. 

She met her husband in the service, and after serving for two and a half years, she was discharged and transitioned to the active reserves. After her husband was discharged, they came back to Grand Rapids. Robinson said it took her 20 years after leaving the service before she started identifying as a veteran. She decided to after attending a meeting at an American Legion. She worked her way up in the American Legion, but she realized that some of the things she experienced in the Navy, were the same at the Legion. 

“They had no respect for me. None, none. I had to earn that respect. I knew that every meeting I went to, I had to be triple prepared for anything they may shoot my way,” Robinson said. 

She served as a past Commander of an American Legion and a past Commander of the United Veterans Council of Kent County. She currently serves as an Adjutant of Post 311, is active with the Michigan Women Veterans Coalition and is a mentor with the Kent County Veterans Treatment Court. Besides also working as a realtor, Robinson spends her time mentoring women in the service and trying to make the military a safer place for women. 

“Besides the respect that females deserve when they’re serving and the right to serve in a safe environment, I want the general public to know that you can look like me, have white hair, not look like I ever served in the military, but I did,” Robinson said. 

Robinson was featured by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.