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Archive for the ‘Combat’ Category

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out – HomeLESS to HomeOWNER!

Posted by danielleac on September 12, 2011

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org

From HomeLESS to HomeOWNER! (Part one of a two-part series: Jessica Campbell’s  story)

Life in a Nutshell -The Road to Homelessness

In 2002, at the age of 21, I made the decision to quit wandering around the small Arkansas town I’m from and to make something of myself. I chose to enlist  in the Army. I spent several months in  basic and advanced training in the field of Communications, learning how to be a Networking Systems Switching Operator or, in layman’s terms, to set up networks for phone and internet access. I learned how to use large computers mobilized on HMMWVs to perform system and network operations in the field, including development of user databases and ongoing preventative maintenance and troubleshooting. I was also awarded a Secret clearance. Once this training concluded, I was shipped to my permanent duty station in Georgia…. only to be shipped off to war six weeks later.

I spent 10 months serving in Kuwait and Iraq attached to a Large Extension Network team, a moving convoy of HMMWVs responsible for providing communications for the front line. We had no protection, no combat unit providing cover during our missions following the moving operations around the country while Baghdad was being bombed. We unexpectedly took fire during a one-day mission, barely avoiding injury and knowing we were sitting ducks.

Living in the line of fire day after day creates a stressful, constant paranoia, although it is required to stay alive, there is a cumulative mental and physical toll.

When I came home I was a different person. I couldn’t feel, couldn’t think, couldn’t function the way I used to. I seemed to be in a state of shock, and began self-medicating with alcohol to deal with the insomnia. This led to trouble in my military life – I had a hard time making morning formations after being up all night, unable to sleep. My coping mechanism, alcohol, earned me a DUI and the embarrassment and shame that goes along with it…with family, friends, and my own self image.  When my unit was issued orders for deployment again, I didn’t go—I decided to accept a general discharge instead of going overseas. I couldn’t do it again.

Once released from active duty, I didn’t have anywhere to go.  There wasn’t any transition help available—for a job or anything. I ended up approaching the VA hospital in Florida for help with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms I had. They dealt with me in a dismissive manner – prescribed medication and sent me on my way.  I wasn’t mentally equipped to deal with everyday life at that point, my part-time job at Home Depot involved dealing with customers, and I really couldn’t handle the “in-your-face” attitude many of the civilians I was working with had.  After bouncing around from friend-to-friend’s homes aimlessly for a couple of years, I finally exhausted my resources and had to admit that I was homeless.

Now in South Carolina, I again approached the VA for assistance. They gave me a list of local shelters. I approached several of the shelters, but was denied entry because I wasn’t broken enough.

I didn’t come from prison. I didn’t suffer from alcoholism. I hadn’t been battered physically. I didn’t have children. I didn’t meet any of the criteria needed to receive their help. Thank goodness the last shelter on the list, Angel’s House, had space for me. After spending two months there and completing a job training program with the local non-profit, Fast Forward Community Technology Center, I saved up enough money to strike out on my own. I also secured a full-time job with a company offering medical benefits, 401K benefits with full vesting, and vacation time.

I still can’t afford a lot of luxuries, like internet and cable, but I am on my own two feet and getting better every day.

From Left to Right: Dee of Fast Forward, Jessie, and Bobbie of Angel House. Thanks to the helping hand extended by both of these fantastic women and the non-profits they run, Jessie was able to get back on her feet.

It took four years. Four years for me to go from active duty and traumatized to satisfactory civilian employment and independent living.  If I could influence the transition process for any service member returning to civilian life, it would be to have more access to information about programs and services that are available to veterans, best and worst case scenarios.

I wasn’t prepared when I left active duty, and I don’t think anyone should leave the service without going through transition or re-entry services.

(Stay tuned for Part II: What a Difference a Year Makes!)

As told to and edited by Danielle Corazza

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Posted in Combat, Gen Y, Homelessness, Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Military, Non Traditional Jobs, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Lesson to be learned

Posted by YWM on August 31, 2011

Something to think about as school starts.

This true story has been circulating on the Internet and we thought it was worth sharing with our readers.

Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom.

When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.

‘Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?’

She replied, ‘You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.’

They thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s our grades.’

‘No,’ she said.

‘Maybe it’s our behavior.’

She told them, ‘No, it’s not even your behavior.’

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period.  Still no desks in the classroom.

By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms. Cothren’s classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, ‘Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom.  Now I am going to tell you.’

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.

Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk.  The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall.  By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha said, ‘You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks.  These heroes did it for you..  They placed the desks here for you. Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens.  They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don’t ever forget it.’

In 2006, The Veterans of Foreign Wars named Martha Cothren as their “Teacher of the Year.”

As school starts and we continue our daily lives don’t forget that August was the deadliest month yet for U.S. forces in the nearly 10-year war in Afghanistan with 66 of our brave soliders dying so that this nation’s children can start school.   We can thank them by supporting our veterans when they return home from defending our freedoms and the freedoms of others.  Sign up to get updates on the BPW Foundation Joining Forces for Women Veteran’s Mentorship program and lean how you can help.

Posted in Combat, Education, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Military, Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Joining Forces: Women Veterans Speak Out

Posted by danielleac on August 1, 2011

Read the latest article of BPW Foundation’s every-other-week Joining Forces feature that brings us the voices of women veterans telling their stories.  If you are a women veteran who would like to share your story, please contact us through our Joining Forces for Women Veterans Facebook page, or email dcorazza@bpwfoundation.org

A Complete Sexual Revolution.. Without any actual sex!

by Danielle Corazza

The Beatles song “Revolution” has been running through my head all weekend with these completely self-adulterated lyrics: “It’s gonna be a revolution, ohhhh, you know that it is.. It’s gonna be a revolution, a sexual one, that is..”

It all started with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell earlier this year. The decision to allow any person to serve their country regardless of their sexual orientation or preference was long overdue.  And, I have been a bit impressed with the relative speed with which the Armed Forces have adopted the change, and rolled out the appropriate training. (I’ve seen name changes in the military take longer.) Seems like they’ve rounded third and are heading for a home run in the fairness, equality, and open-mindedness ball game..

But, wait. Something’s missing. Wonder what that could be?

Oh, yeah. Women.

As far back as the Revolutionary War, women were there. As the quote goes:

History raves about the heroics of men in war, but few instances are mentioned in which female courage was displayed. Yet during every conflict, and the peaceful years between, they too were there.

To borrow from the irascible, yet succinct, Capt Barb, “If she volunteers to defend this nation’s rights, then this nation should defend her right to volunteer for any military assignment.”

Women are in combat. It’s an undisputed fact, and no manner of fancy rule-engineering and loophole-diving can change it. So, why don’t we legalize it so that women may begin the deserved training and support?

On May 13th, 2011, HR 1928 was introduced in the House of Representatives and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

HR 1928 outlines the findings that females in the Armed Forces are increasingly attached to combat units and engaging in frontline roles despite the current ground combat exclusion policy and also engaging in direct combat without receiving combat training. The purpose of the legislation is to ensure that modern military combat policies reflect the current operational environment of combat operations and to raise the recognition that female members for the Armed Forces should receive for their service.

Late last week, a group comprised mainly of female Congresswomen met as the Caucus on Women in the Military. After hearing from several subject matter experts, they recommended that the policy prohibiting women in combat be changed.

It seems that the steam is building, and that the batter is in the box.  Can we hit another home run for fairness and equality on behalf of women?

Make your voice heard by letting your member of Congress know now is the time!

Posted in Combat, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, legislation, Military, Uncategorized, Veterans, Women Veterans | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »