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Female veterans speak of healing

Wreaths Across America is a radio station with specific programing for veterans. and the third of four live roundtable discussions on the station addressed veteran healing, specifically women.

Wreaths Across America’s Executive Director Karen Worcester, and Director of Military and Veteran Outreach, retired United States Army Capt. Joe Regan, hosted this event. Serving on the guest panel were President of Army Women’s Foundation Brig. Gen. Anne F. Macdonald, U.S. Army (Ret.), President of the Women in Military Service For America Memorial Foundation and CWO 5 (Ret.) Phyllis Wilson, and Brenda Pennels, who is the Uniformed Services Family Health Plan Strategic Relations Manager for Martin’s Point Healthcare

Each of the guests shared parts of their military history and its impact on their lives. Pennels said she wanted to be clear that, “you can serve your country, do your duty and come out the other end as a happy, well-adjusted person.” Each of the panelists agreed that there are stereotypes associated with being a veteran, as well as being a woman veteran.

Macdonald said she was part of the first gender-integrated class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Both she and Wilson agreed that women in the military tend to put extra pressure on themselves. Wilson said women felt the need “to outperform their peers – to not only do as well but better than the men, being equal wasn’t enough.”

All of the panelists agreed that the benefits and personal rewards were well worth their time and efforts to stay in the military. Wilson said, ”Most people join the military for mercenary reasons, but stay for the spirit of community, selflessness and trust.”

Macdonald said she loved the structure and being held accountable. She loved the grit and determination she didn’t know she had until she went to West Point. “It was the best part of my life, it is the best part of who I am.”

The panel was asked about challenges that women face in the military; all three stated home life and being away from your children is the hardest part. Sexual assault and harassment are also problems for some women. Lastly, the physicality of the military is hard, and not for everyone. Macdonald said todays Army is more aware and is listening to the issues all soldiers face. She said the Army recognizes that they “recruit the soldier, retain the family.” More effort is being made to offer broader opportunities to a broader base of people, even those with families. Wilson ended the segment by stating, “women have served shoulder to shoulder with men and are just as patriotic as any other veteran.” They all advocated for more female involvement and service in the future.

Women serving in the military is nothing new. Since the Revolutionary War over 3 million women have served our country, yet it wasn’t until 1901 that women were legitimately recognized as military members of the Army Nurse Corps. Prior to that, women would disguise themselves as men or travel as doctor’s aides to be part of the military.