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Giving Thanks to Women Who have Served Our Country

Posted by BPW Foundation Contributer on November 26, 2014

There is a lot of well-deserved recognition and gratitude that envelops veterans and members of our armed forces during the second week of November.  We are proud of all who have served and serve.  Like other organizations supporting veterans and women veterans in particular, BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® (JFMP) works all day and every day of the year to hand-match women veterans with free mentors who can help them in the pursuit of a civilian job and career.  Our JFMP team recognizes and is well-equipped to address the unique needs and gaps that exist for women transitioning from active duty as well as those who have been out of the service for awhile.

Our priorities are to secure funding which makes this program FREE for women veterans, understand the skillset and network of a generous mentor volunteer, and facilitate the connection by hand-matching the two.  This does not work like a dating site- we delve into the nuances at JFMP.  We want to ensure a productive and meaningful relationship, and that has resulted in numerous success stories.

Do you know that we have been advocating for and providing mentoring for ALL professional women since 1919?  We are not new to this scene.  JFMP is modeled on BPW Foundation’s “Working Women Helping Women Work” approach.  We truly know what we’re doing, and it’s helping change the trajectory of women’s lives.  We have linked arms with other veteran service organizations and together we provide a quilt of support on the legal, financial, benefits, and career fronts. We aren’t embracing women who have served our country as a cause du jour.  We are fully committed to—and invested in—doing right by ALL of America’s working women – and it’s through this lens that we are working to support the career transitions of women veterans.

Our Employer Partners “get it”.  Their underwriting of JFMP is not lip service.  They know that some of the very best people who could run a supply chain for a grocery chain are the very women who made it happen in the military theater.  One of the largest online retailers wants to specifically hire women veterans because they are fluent in logistics and calm in pressure-packed environments like their fulfillment warehouses.

This resonates, doesn’t it?  Whether someone managed postal mail, provided medical services, served on the front line, or kept the line moving at the fuel depot, she has skills that transcend the specific nature of her role.  Shouldn’t she be given the support and the platform necessary to be successful in any role because she choses and is capable of doing so?

Women veterans don’t transition to civilian life with a turnkey resume understood by the non military workplace, but that’s an easy fix when they get the right help.  Whether a mentor is a VP of Communications for a global financial organization, a long-time office clerk/manager/supervisor, or a small-town entrepreneur, she has special insights and advice to offer a woman veteran.  After getting to know one another, those interactions may include everything from editing a resume, to mock interviewing to handing off a personal contact.  Everyone involved wants to ensure success through meaningful employment.  It’s not a simple journey, but it’s one that is eased by the right assets and support.

You can help us replicate this success for even more women veterans by making a financial donation to fund the technology and the lean and talented crew that makes this magic happen.  You can also show your support by becoming a mentor, member, Subject Matter Expert (www.JoiningForceMentoringPlus.org), or encouraging your workplace to support the program and encourage widespread support like Booz Allen Hamilton, Citi, Alliant Credit Union, and many others have done.

Mostly, we hope you will join us in incorporating support for women veterans and their unique needs into daily life all year long…not just in November.

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BPW/NC Provides Grants to Women Veterans

Posted by YWM on July 17, 2014

NC grantsIn 2014 BPW/NC launched a grant program to provide funding to women veteran professionals or business owners in North Carolina to be used for training, startup capital or business related expenses. During BPW/NC’s recent convention, $500 grants were awarded to MSgt Barbara J. Bozeman, USAF (Ret.) and Tina Smith, USA (E-4 Specialist).

Ms. Bozeman joined the Air Force because she knew she wanted a career and ended up staying for over twenty years. The most important lesson she learned in the military was that regardless of the circumstances, she was never alone, and that she was responsible to and responsible for everyone with whom she served. This gave her both a great sense of freedom to grow as an individual and as a leader. She plans to use the Women Veteran Grant to create a more professional display for her photography business, Sights and Hounds Photography.

When Ms. Smith was in the 9th grade she knew she wanted to be a soldier and enrolled in the Junior Reserves Officer Training Corps program. She has gone on to obtain a Bachelors of Science Degree in Human Service and a Master’s of Science of in Organizational Management Leadership. Her career goal has always been to use her degrees to help others out. She plans to use the Women Veteran Grant to help boost her business, Germacide Cleaning Solutions.

 

Posted in Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Small Business, Uncategorized, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Honoring Military Nurse Linda Spoonster Schwartz: Healing the Wounds of War

Posted by Crystal Williams on May 9, 2014

Today BPW Foundation is proud to honor and recognize Women Joining Forces Advisory Council Member Linda Spoonster Schwartz.
LindaHealing the Wounds of War Linda Spoonster Schwartz was a member of the United States Air Force and served on Active Duty and as a Reservist, retiring in 1986 after sustaining injuries in an aircraft accident while serving as an Air Force Flight Nurse. She received a Masters in Nursing from Yale and holds a Doctorate in Public Health from the Yale School of Medicine.  Linda has a long history of involvement in nursing and veteran organizations and is known as an advocate and activist who has devoted her life to healing the wounds of war.

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Benefits of Mentoring for Women Veterans

Posted by YWM on May 7, 2014

Testimony of Dawn Smith, Joining Forces Mentoring Plus mentee, before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, May 7,2014.

Dawn SmithMr. Chair, Madam Ranking Member, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to be here today. My name is Dawn Smith. I am the Founder and CEO of Mystic Reme Teas in Greenville, South Carolina, and testifying today on behalf of Business and Professional Women’s Foundation.

As a woman veteran who recently started my own business, I hope my experiences can be helpful to the committee as you examine which government and nonprofit programs can best assist and meet the unique needs of women veterans as they transition back to civilian life.

I am very proud of my military service. I served in the Air Force for eight years and was deployed six times to Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey and Germany. My expertise in the military was logistics, which means I was responsible for making sure that the movement of both troops and cargo got to the right place and were on time. In both Iraq and Afghanistan I was a Terminal Operations Manager responsible for processing and loading more than 7,000 passengers and directing the shipment of hundreds of thousands of tons of cargo. My work was consistently recognized for meeting excellent delivery and departure standards. I also earned my MBA while in the military.

Because of my advanced logistics experience and MBA, I really didn’t think I would have a problem finding a rewarding career when I left the service. But when I returned home to North Carolina to raise my children on my own, I was not even considered for management jobs; instead, I was offered positions like a warehouse worker, which I did not think utilized my skills, education and experience. For a couple of years I took various jobs that did not fit my background including working as a high school teacher and secretary since I needed to feed my children. These jobs offered neither the career I was seeking nor the salary commensurate with my experience.

BPW JFMPlogo.lowWhile working, I continued to look for a more rewarding and financially secure position. I returned to school to begin a master’s program in accounting. But looking for a job while managing the demands of work, school and motherhood, I became discouraged. I knew I needed help, so I turned to the internet to see what career resources might be available for a woman veteran. I was very fortunate to find Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, a non-profit organization that runs a free career mentoring program for women veterans, Joining Forces Mentoring Plus®. What attracted me to their program was that working women volunteers mentor women veterans (like me) to help us navigate a path to successful civilian careers, and even pursue entrepreneurial opportunities. Participants can access a free “high-tech/high-touch” internet community that includes experienced women mentors as coaches, navigators and supporters.

I immediately signed up and was assigned a wonderfully accomplished mentor, Sandy Smith. Sandy worked with me one-on-one and was persistent in offering advice and support on everything from interviewing skills to resume development. She pushed me, checking on how many resumes I sent out each day. She helped me create a new mindset that gave me the courage to apply for positions that previously I wouldn’t have thought possible. In 2012, I was hired as an auditor by the U.S. Defense Contract Audit Agency. I am happy to report that my salary at this job was twice what I had been making previously. After landing the job, Sandy, my mentor, did not leave me on my own but coached me on office etiquette and protocols necessary to successfully navigate the civilian sector workplace. All of Sandy’s mentoring and coaching paid off: I love my job and feel my career is now on very solid ground.

But even though I love my job, I have always dreamed of owning my own business. With Sandy’s encouragement and sustained mentoring last year, I started an online store that sells my own brand of tea. I am very excited that Mystic Reme Teas is currently in the final selection round to appear on Shark Tank. If I am chosen, I will be seeking funding to open my own tea bar.

I truly believe none of this would have happened without the personal mentoring and wide array of career resources offered by BPW Foundation. It was so successful for me because it was designed by and for women. Generic veteran-based employment and career development programs too often miss the unique elements and needs that matter most to women veterans. We need awareness and guidance about available support and employment resources, and programs that support and recognize the multiple roles impacting women veterans and their access to jobs.

I can attest to the fact that women leaving the service often face unique challenges including single motherhood or care giving for family members, including wounded warriors. Also women veterans often do not identify as veterans and don’t know they can access a wide array of benefits. We are frequently looked at differently from our fellow male veterans. Women who served in war zones are often not afforded the same level of prestige as their male counterparts.

Thanks to the generous support of BPW Foundation and its partners such as Alliant Credit Union Foundation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Cengage Learning, Citi, CVS Caremark, and others, there is no cost to participate in this mentoring program – it’s absolutely free for the women who participate.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my story and tell you about the resources that helped me begin my successful career and start my business. I hope that other women veterans will benefit from my experience and that the committee will support programs that are tailored for the challenges and needs that our women veterans face as they seek meaningful lives after our time in the military

Click here to read Dawn’s full testimony

Posted in Career Advancement, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Small Business, Uncategorized, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

2014 Business and Professional Women’s Foundation Recognizes Contributions Made by Joining Forces Mentoring plus Champions Women in History – Making History Event

Posted by Crystal Williams on March 26, 2014

2014 BPW Foundation Women in History – Making History Event Recap

Last week, Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation welcomed over 250 guests at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. for the organization’s 2nd annual event celebrating women veterans of all ranks and eras, military/veteran spouses, caregivers of wounded warriors, and survivors of fallen service members. Partners, sponsors, and champions of BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® (JFMP) career development program shared employment tools and resources to broaden program engagement and provide networking opportunities for JFMP participants.

BPW Foundation CEO Deborah Frett welcomed the audience, and Dalena Kanouse, President and Chief Executive Officer, MTCI delivered a heartwarming keynote about how she ended up at the helm of MTCI after the death of her military veteran husband. “It wasn’t until the day before he passed away that Sam told me that he wanted me to take over the company.”

Jackie Bradford, NBC4 President and General Manager, kicked off a series of two career development panels moderated by NBC4 anchor Erika Gonzalez. Participants on the first panel, “Tools & Resources for the Civilian Workplace,” included Christine Ayers (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP), Ellen Gardner (Citi), Kia Silver Hodge (Northrop Grumman Corporation), and Beverly VanTull (Bon Secours). Jennifer Finder (BAE Systems), Wendy Warren (NBC4), and Crystal Williams (BPW Foundation and MetaLogix, Inc) led the second panel, “Social Media Strategies for Career Success. Suni Harford, Managing Director & Regional Head of Markets for North America, Citi summarized key learning from both panels.

Career_Tools_graphic_with_Logo  Social_Media_graphic.BPW_Logo
The panel sessions were captured in a graphic recording by Barbara Seigel of Look2listen.com

The networking reception and awards portion of the evening began with a toast from Roslyn Ridgeway, Chair, BPW Foundation Board of Trustees and remarks by Maureen Casey, Managing Director, Military & Veterans Affairs, JPMorgan Chase. Guest speaker Cara G. LaPointe, Commander, United States Navy; White House Fellow, Office of the First Lady spoke on behalf of Honorary Chair First Lady Michelle Obama, “Women’s History Month is an important time to recognize the victories, the struggles and the stories of all women who have made our country what it is–especially those of women veterans and military/veteran spouses who have sacrificed so much for our country.”

 

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A highlight of the evening was the recognition of Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® Champions

 

 

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Courtney Banks Speath and BPW Board Member Velma Hart

The Angel Outreach Award was presented to Courtney Banks Spaeth by BPW board member Velma Hart for Courtney’s substantial “prospecting” efforts to raise awareness and cultivate critical new financial support for Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® through her personal and professional networks. The founder and Chief Executive Officer of NSAWW, Courtney has broadened the footprint of Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® by introducing new funding prospects, as well as resources and career opportunities for JFMP participants. Her efforts have led to new partnerships that will enhance and expand the program’s reach and capacity within the national security and defense contractor arenas and beyond.

 

 

 

BPW Trustee Leslie Wilkins and Dave Mooney President and CEO of Alliant Credit Union

BPW Trustee Leslie Wilkins and Dave Mooney President and CEO of Alliant Credit Union

BPW Trustee Leslie Wilkins and Dave Mooney President and CEO of Alliant Credit Union Leslie Wilkins, BPW Trustee traveled from Hawaii to present the Innovative Programming Award to Alliant Credit Union Foundation for providing critical financial literacy resources for Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® participants. Dave Mooney, President and CEO of Alliant Credit Union, was one of the first private sector leaders to pledge his company’s support during our 2010 Joining Forces for Women Veterans Summit. Since then, Alliant Credit Union has championed Joining Forces Mentoring Plus®, contributing both funding and valuable employee resources to building the program’s inventory of financial tools. Thanks to Alliant, every JFMP participant can access confidential, free one-to-one financial counseling, planning, and more as they strive to achieve financial security for themselves, their families, and their businesses.

 

Christine Hoisington, Pamela Hardy, Robin Portman with Booze Allen Hamilton and BPW Board Member Venita Garvin

Christine Hoisington, Pamela Hardy, Robin Portman with Booz Allen Hamilton and BPW Board Member Venita Garvin

Venita Garvin, BPW Board, presented the Action with Compassion Award to Booz Allen Hamilton for the company’s ongoing support for military and veteran families. Robin Portman, Booz Allen Hamilton Executive VP, first approached BPW Foundation with an idea to expand JFMP resources to meet the complex employment needs of female caregivers of wounded warriors. Robin opened her heart—and Booz Allen Hamilton’s purse—assembling a team that has grown to build and serve a robust caregiver community through JFMP online as well as at Walter Reed Hospital.

 

 

 

 

 

Rosalyn Ridgeway BPW Chair, Mimi Zelman BPW NC President, Crystal Williams BPW NC Women Joining Forces Chair

Rosalyn Ridgeway BPW Chair, Mimi Zelman BPW NC President, Crystal Williams BPW NC Women Joining Forces Chair

Rosalyn Ridgeway, BPW Chair was happy to present the Grassroots Award -BPW North Carolina for being an “early adopter” of the Women Joining Forces Program and substantial, successful community grassroots efforts to raise awareness and cultivate support for Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® throughout North Carolina. They have reached out to women veterans and included them in the many activities, workshops and conferences designed to support working women. BPW/NC members exemplify BPW Foundation’s motto “Working Women Helping Women Work.”

 

Check out our Honor Wall

Please visit our virtual Honor Wall, and honor the patriotism of women veterans, military/veteran spouses, female caregivers of wounded warriors, survivors of fallen service members, and the women who impact your life.  Click Here

 

Giving Thanks

We are grateful to the generous sponsors whose contributions made this wonderful event possible!

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Equal Pay for Working Women Would Boost the Economy

Posted by YWM on February 6, 2014

Equal Pay DayFive years after the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act-a bill that reinstated women’s ability to contest unlawful pay discrimination and the first bill signed into law by President Obama-analysis from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) finds that the poverty rate for working women would be cut in half if women were paid the same as comparable men, and that greater pay transparency would increase women’s pay.

Nearly 60 percent (59.3 percent) of women would earn more if working women were paid the same as men of the same age with similar education and hours of work. The poverty rate for all working women would be cut in half, falling to 3.9 percent from 8.1 percent. The high poverty rate for working single mothers would fall by nearly half, from 28.7 percent to 15.0 percent. For the 14.3 million single women living on their own, equal pay would mean a significant drop in poverty from 11.0 percent to 4.6 percent.

Persistent pay discrimination for women translates into lower wages and family income in families with a working woman. The gender pay gap also affects the economy as a whole: in 2012, the U.S. economy would have produced additional income of $447.6 billion (equal to 2.9 percent of 2012 GDP) if women received equal pay.

“Unequal pay for women has had a negative effect on women and men, alike,” said IWPR President Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. “Paying women fairly for their work would go a long way in reducing poverty and giving the economy the jump start it needs.”

“Today, too many workers are discouraged from sharing the pay information that would give women the tools they need to challenge pay levels,” said IWPR Vice President and Executive Director Barbara Gault, Ph.D.

Nearly half of all workers are either prohibited or strongly discouraged from discussing their pay with their colleagues. The gender wage gap in the federal government-with high levels of pay transparency-is only 11 percent, compared with 23 percent nationwide.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies.

Posted in Equal Pay, Gender Discrimination, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Engaging More Than One Million Girls and Young Women in STEM Education and Careers

Posted by YWM on January 23, 2014

BPWFoundationlogocolorBusiness and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation is partnering with the “Million Women Mentors” (MWM) initiative.  Launched in January during National Mentoring Month, the initiative will support the engagement of one million science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) mentors – male and female – to increase the interest and confidence of girls and young women to pursue and succeed in STEM degrees and careers.

Supporting women in non-traditional fields has long been part of BPW Foundation’s mission. Since 1969, BPW’s career advancement scholarships have provided financial assistance to financially disadvantaged women 25 years of age or older seeking to further their education, advance their careers or re-enter the workforce. BPW Foundation solicits prospective scholarship candidates from its state and local Legacy members.  Most of last year’s scholarship recipients are pursing degrees in STEM or related fields.

BPW Foundation’s goal is to share information about Million Women Mentors among its legacy chapters across the country, to engage STEM mentors and to encourage young girls and women interested in STEM fields to pursue their goals with the help of a mentor.  One aspect of BPW Foundation’s commitment to mentoring young women is the BPW Young Careerist program conducted by BPW local and state organizations which recognizes and assists young women as they start their careers.  In addition, BPW members provide career enhancement tools to women of all ages through locally conducted Individual Development programs.  joining this initiative is a natural fit with our ongoing work.

“With our legacy of ‘working women helping women work®’ BPW Foundation is proud to partner with Million Women Mentors to support women across their STEM career spectrum, from young careerists to mid and upper-level professionals, to those transitioning out of the military,” said BPW Foundation CEO Deborah Frett.

BPW Foundation also seeks to leverage this partnership to promote access to STEM career opportunities among women veterans, military spouses and women who have lost a loved one serving in the Armed Forces. “Many women veterans leave the militarywith a wealth of technical training and experience, but they don’t know how to translate those skills into meaningful careers,” said Leslie Wilkins , member of the BPW Foundation Board of Trustees and Founder and Director, MEDB’s Women in Technology Project.  “Having access to STEM professionals through Million Women Mentors will help these skilled women, who unselfishly served our country, leverage their skills and tap into careers in STEM. Million Women Mentor’s work can also support the talented pool of unemployed and underemployed military spouses and surviving family members and bridge the gap (often due to multiple moves or the loss of a loved one) to a successful career in STEM.”

In the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs has been three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs. Today 80% of the fastest growing occupations in the United States depend on mastery of mathematics and knowledge and skills in hard sciences. While women comprise 48% of the U.S. workforce, just 24% are in STEM fields, a statistic that has held constant for nearly the last decade. While 75% of all college students are women and students of color, they represent only 45% of STEM degrees earned each year. Too many of these young women begin in STEM but leave those degree paths despite their good academic standing, often citing uncomfortable classroom experiences and disconcerting climate. Even when women earn a STEM degree, they are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM field even though STEM jobs pay more and have a lower wage gap: 92 cents on a dollar versus 75 cents in other fields.

“Clearly the need for women in STEM is there,” said Frett.  “By tapping into current pools of talent among our women veteran and military spouse community, and contributing to tomorrow’s STEM professionals among our young careerists, BPW Foundation continues its vision to partner to create successful workplaces for women, their families and employers.”

Posted in girls, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Mentoring, STEM, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

At the crossroads where I am and where you are

Posted by YWM on January 22, 2014

By Jacque Hillman, President BPW/Tennessee

Jacquemug-HillHelenGroupToday, I’m president of Business and Professional Women of Tennessee, an entrepreneur with two companies, and I’m on a mission. But in 1969, at age 21, I took my husband, a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, to board a plane leaving for Vietnam. He became a forward observer calling in artillery strikes.

Two years later he came home with a Bronze Star for valor and nightmares about incoming rockets. Other than malaria, he was not wounded, except in his soul. My husband wrote about calling in artillery strikes on Viet Cong families in clearings when the men came out from the jungle. He wrote: “If there is a hell, I’m going there.”

We were fortunate that he had a scholarship for Tulane University Law School. I had a degree in English and secondary education and a teacher’s license. So we became civilians. Yet as a former military wife, I looked at everyone with “new” eyes – no time for whiners and complainers.

I heard people complain about the golf course fairways or food in the school cafeteria. I listened to the good church women who wanted to install carpet in the minister’s bathroom and were miffed that his wife thought it was silly. My reaction was “Get real.”
War and military service changes everything – it changes everyone. How can it not? How can you see what you see, hear it, feel it, and not be changed?

My first marriage made it 18 years and died for various reasons – mostly we grew apart. It happens. Today I’m happily married (25 years in May) to an Air Force veteran. My first husband is happily married and has a two-week old baby! Yes, life happens.
Everyone starts over at some point. As we begin 2014, it is time for fresh starts.

Many women military veterans – YOU — are returning home and need jobs. You need help. You come home to people who cannot possibly understand where you’ve been or what you’ve done. You look at them with “new” eyes. You wonder how to begin, where to begin.

As BPW/TN president and a Jackson Area BPW member, I said, “It’s time for a change.”

So my amazing convention team and I have redesigned our convention June 13-15 in Jackson, Tenn., to offer YOU — women veterans — a full day of meetings with representatives of colleges, universities and colleges of applied technology, two days of business session training that will help your resume. We will have veterans’ representatives present from our counties to help you with whatever questions you may have. We have sponsors for our state convention who want to help you find jobs. We’ll teach you how to network, how to write a resume, how to ace an interview and more.

Want to become an entrepreneur? We’ll help you do that. Serving on the Entrepreneur Development Center board in Jackson. I see enterprising people with great ideas get started. That’s what you need, isn’t it? A start?

I’m an alumnus of the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy where leaders in eight states learned about just what you face in the Delta Region to get started. It’s hard to get your business started in rural Tennessee if you still have dial up or you can’t get connectivity where you are. Some folks in business assume we all have the same resources. It’s hard to do homework in school if you don’t have a computer. This is real.

I will be writing blogs each week on points that will help you. If you live in Tennessee, we have women who are eager to become your mentors. Check us out at bpwtn.org.

All you have to do is reach out. You see, there are people like me who know where you’ve been. And we just want to get you where you need – and want — to be.

Contact me anytime.

Jacque is a senior partner in The HillHelen Group LLC media services and the owner/designer of Reconfigured Art Jewelry.

Posted in Career Advancement, Military Families, Uncategorized, Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Veteran Uses Exercise to Tame His Demons

Posted by YWM on January 17, 2014

By Liz McLean: Liz is a staffing advisor at Hewlett Packard, a veteran, Ironman triathlete and guest blogger.

How does one cope with stress?  Common methods are journaling, lighting scented candles, working in the garden or perhaps ferociously shopping on Amazon.com.  More harmful methods include turning to alcohol, excessive sleep or withdrawing from society.  All that being said, when you suffer from stress as severe as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and treat it with alcoholism….in the end an outsider looking in can only hope the outcome is positive.  For Aaron Autler, a 28 year old Marine Infantry veteran, the healthiest methods to cure-all was introduced…..an intense exercise regimen to cope with the demons.  That is the journey that Aaron has started and I am here to help him finish not a 5k.…but an Ironman.

When we think of the typical homeless vet, we envision the older toothless gentlemen with a frayed beard on the street corner, dressed in military garb simply wanting a handout based on the merits of his cardboard sign.  We don’t think of a strapping young, physical specimen of a then 25 year old boy who simply couldn’t cope with reality.

When Aaron returned from his deployment overseas in 2010, there was not a welcoming team to ensure he was on the precise path to civilian populace integration.  Aaron returned to the US without a sense of belonging and without believing he truly deserved a chance to be a contributing member of society.  Fighting the medical systems to get the help that needed and deserved, Aaron’s biggest obstacle was his PTSD.  This (coupled with a faulty reintegration process) left him questioning his purpose and ultimately vet americamigrating on the streets as a homeless veteran.  My personal awareness of the homeless vet population was reinforced from my competition in the Inaugural Miss Veteran America Competition in 2012, where I represented Final Salute in the quest to remove women vets specifically from the alleyways.  Staggeringly, approximately 131,000 homeless vets line the street corners on any given night.

In the instance of Aaron, while on the streets the entity that quieted his dismal voices the most was alcohol.  Sadly alcohol became Aaron’s closest ally as he removed himself further away from the eyes of those who were capable of lending a helping hand.  Fortunately, over time those who saw his struggle eventually reached out and he was pulled from the downward spiral as a date was set for him to enter the Men’s Trauma Recovery Center in Menlo Park, CA.  Through the detox, the torment and countless hours of counseling, the once stellar athlete was then introduced to the art of cycling.  With hours of practice and the support of his trauma group, Aaron was able to not just meet, but exceed all expectations.

Now one year sober and working on his path to become a functioning member of society, Aaron is on the quest to become not just a triathlete…but an Ironman.  Having been a veteran myself who has dealt with personal traumatic struggles and competes in Ironman events, I was elated to coach Aaron on his journey.

The most recent contribution to Aaron’s success was made by Joe Santos of Davis Wheelworks in Davis, CA.  Joe selflessly santos and Autlerreconstructed Aaron’s gifted road bike into the dream triathlon bike.  Joe is a globally respected biomechanic whose precision in the art of cycling has led countless cyclist and triathlete victories.  Thanks to the help of Joe, his astute cycling knowledge and compassion, Aaron will now be able to take the next steps of traumatic recovery by putting his body to the ultimate test in an efficient way.

autler with tri bikeThe discipline of training and the adrenaline of completing a goal that less than 1% of the world’s population has completed is a triumph for any human being….but for someone like Aaron Autler the quest has an entirely new meaning.  Autler says,  “ I want to compete in Triathlons because I love to be challenged; that is why I became a Marine.  It allows me to train in multiple sports and helps occupy a lot of time by keeping my mind focused on improving myself and off the things that keep me stuck and moving backwards. It is a long and short term set of goals and I can measure the progress by competing in events and it is something I can continue to improve for the rest of life.” Cheers to athletics being civilization’s best medicine.

Posted in Friendship, Homelessness, sports, Uncategorized, Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

CAREER MENTORING FOR WOMEN COPING WITH THE DEATH OF A SERVICE MEMBER

Posted by YWM on January 16, 2014

Surviving spouses, sisters, mothers and other women grieving a loss can get career mentoring

BPW mentoring logo.cThe Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) are partnering to provide career mentoring and resources to military widows, surviving sisters, surviving mothers and other women who have lost a loved one serving in the Armed Forces.

Through BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces Mentoring Plus program , (JFMP) surviving spouses and other female family members will have access to its no-cost national mentoring program. The program uses both one-on-one contact and a sophisticated online platform of resources for this deserving cohort of women. Mentorships and resources extend beyond job attainment to support job retention and career advancement.

“Since January is National Mentoring Month we couldn’t be more excited to announce our partnership with TAPS to support military spouses, daughters, mothers, sisters and fiancées, who have tragically lost a loved one who served our country,” said BPW Foundation CEO Deborah Frett.

“In addition to their grief, these women now face the difficult challenge of rebuilding their lives.  Having the option of a meaningful, sustainable career is often key to this effort.”  Joining Forces Mentoring Plus provides access to free mentoring provided by volunteer working women, Subject Matter Experts for special needs, and a vast number of state-of-the-art career resources through our internet platform.

“And our unique benefit of Working Women Helping Women Work® provides these female military spouses/family members with a truly understanding helping hand,” Frett added. The program offers tailored mentoring to assist career development.

“We are so grateful to the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation for offering the Joining Forces Mentoring Plus program for free to women grieving the death of a loved one who served in the Armed Forces,” said Bonnie Carroll, military widow and TAPS founder.

Carroll said that career mentoring is often very helpful for women grieving the loss of a loved one who served in the Armed Forces. “Families of our fallen troops often change career courses completely following the death of their loved one. They have to build a new life after the deaths of their loved ones and many have to find a new direction in life. Having such a caring and supportive mentoring program available will be an invaluable resource for the families left behind by our fallen troops.”

If you are a surviving spouse, mother, daughter, sister, or other who has lost a loved one serving in our Armed Forces, you can get involved by visiting www.JoiningForcesMentoringPlus.org or contacting Helpdesk@bpwfoundation.org.

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