What’s the best memory you have of your service?
I have many great memories, but I think my best would be working public affairs. I was a combat correspondent, specializing in taking photos and writing articles for the base newspaper. I also escorted media, and things like that. I became the public affairs person for the Great Lakes Cruise. For three months we showed off the capabilities of amphibious vehicles. And when the cruise stopped in Cleveland, my family got to come out and tour the ship. The Plain Dealer even did a great story on me. I was the face of integrating women into the amphibious ship program. It was really interesting.
What was the hardest thing to adapt to in civilian life?
There’s a stark contrast between being a service member and being a civilian. I got used to having a routine and structure. I got used to relying on teamwork. And losing that stability and connection was the hardest adjustment.
Everyone told me that adjusting to civilian life would be harder than adjusting to military service. But I think when you join has a lot to do with how well you will adapt. College recruits can at least understand civilian life better. But a high school recruit is going to assume that that teamwork and support is there across the board. And that’s simply not the case.
What’s the one service you feel that female veterans need?
We need more peer support. There are peer specialists in the VA, and they have been expanding their programs. But there needs to be more. There are a lot of programs out there for veterans on a state or federal level. But there’s next to no advertising. And female veterans have an entirely different set of problems. Programs designed around male veterans can only provide part of the support. And not having the right support increases the possibility of your average female veteran falling through the cracks.
Also, peer support is prioritized for those recovering from mental illness and addiction. But what about the people who aren’t in dangerous situations? What about someone who just needs a little help? There are plenty of homeless vets out there who don’t have a mental illness or a physical disability. Even someone with a strong foundation of support can still slip into a dire situation. Vets work best in a team. Why not play to that strength? Having a program for female vets with built in peer support would help us help ourselves.
What is the best thing that your work with Women of Hope gives you?
The chance to give back. I know how valuable transitional housing is. And Women of Hope provides temporary housings specifically for female veterans. Women of Hope is an important program, and I’ll support them anyway that I can.