Women Veterans – Our Invisible Sheroes
Posted by YWM on March 21, 2011
This article originally appeared in Hart of the Matter© on March 18, 2011. For more information or to contact Velma Hart, visit www.velmarhart.com.
March is Women’s History Month and we have a lot to be proud of! This year’s theme is “Our History is Our Strength” and offers a time to reflect on the women whose blood, sweat, tears, passion, courage and grace created much of what we know as the foundation of our country today. From Harriet Tubman to Clara Barton. Amelia Earhart. Marian Wright Edelman. All famous names, and all deserving of our appreciation and honor for sure.
Still, there is another group of women who are not as well recognized – whose faces and names and stories are not studied by schoolchildren, but who nonetheless played a critical role in shaping our nation’s history as well as leaving a legacy for years to come. They are women veterans and they have been invisible for far too long.
For decades, these ‘sheroes’ [women veteran heroes] have been serving proudly in the military, doing their duty for their country. Today, they represent 15% of the military and are the fastest-growing single population segment. But even with these statistics, when they return home they often fail to receive the recognition, benefits, or services they have earned. Public and private-sector tools, services, and programs for veterans are still largely designed with men in mind and do not necessarily reflect the distinct needs of women. Also, many younger women vets tend not to self-identify as “veterans” and are therefore unaware of the benefits for which they are eligible.
To help women veterans successfully transition into civilian lives and provide them greater access to professional development and employment opportunities and other benefits, the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation (BPW) this month introduced a new nationwide campaign: Joining Forces for Women Veterans. I am a proud veteran and serve on the group’s Advisory Council, a panel of veterans and other experts with the vision and experience to help guide this initiative.
On March 15, we released a report summarizing the findings of a group of 80 leaders from the White House, federal agencies, veteran’s community, and the business and nonprofit sectors to discuss the challenges facing women veterans and plot a course for action. This is a first step toward building a repository of information, resources, and evidence-based programs for women veterans about three key problems plaguing the women veteran population – homelessness, family and community reintegration challenges, and barriers to employment.
As the women veteran population continues to grow, we must better recognize the challenges and commit to building the partnerships that provide solutions. Women veterans have much to contribute to the labor market and must have access to the economic mainstream, suitable housing, and the benefits they have earned.
History teaches us that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past if we do not learn the lessons they teach us. As it pertains to women, we also know that we have not always done the right thing and have not always paid the proper respect. I hope that we have learned those lessons to ensure we move quickly in all our efforts to take care of female veterans both now and in the future. Like all who serve, it is the very least we can do for them, indeed should always by our very best.
To stay abreast of updates from the Joining Forces for Women Veterans initiative, please follow Joining Forces for Women Veterans on Facebook and Twitter (www.twitter.com/BPWF4WomenVets) or visit www.womenjoiningforces.org.