Transgender military members worry about future as new policy takes shape

Jenna is a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve but has spent nearly 17 in active service.

"I've been to Iraq three times, once to Afghanistan and another time to Korea," she shared Thursday.

Her career, however, could be over before she's even thought about retirement.

Jenna is transgender, and mustered the courage to come out socially last year after trans troops were approved by the Department of Defense to openly serve in the military under the Obama administration.

"My command team knows but the whole unit at large doesn't know yet," Jenna said. Though her command team already knows, she doesn't want to share her last name until she's had a chance to tell the unit herself.

Remember, President Donald Trump in a trio of July tweets announced his administration's intention to ban people like Jenna from serving in the armed forces.

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That's when she decided to share her truth with her fellow servicemen and women.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the White House will soon advise the Pentagon to reject trans applicants and stop paying for their medical treatments, ultimately considering "their ability to deploy when deciding whether to expel them."

"When I first heard the news I was furious. I was absolutely furious that you could first come out and welcome all transgender service members and then turn around and say we're going to ban everybody again," Jenna said. "It's ridiculous that I can put in 17 years and just be shown the door because of how I was born."

Iraq war veteran Nicole Vanderheiden is in much the same boat, making her transition four years ago and considering re-enlisting much of the time since then.

She's an Arabic language intelligence analyst, with skills the National Guard is always looking for, but in today's climate she's not sure if she will be able to do so, even with her years of experience.

"I would love to contribute those skills to the National Guard and the reserves, but under this administration it's proving impossible," she said. "I'm going to do whatever I can to fight it and get something out of my service."

On the other hand, Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler--a proponent of the ban--says she won't comment until the decision is official, but is "pleased to see the process move forward."

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has six months to put the new policy into action.