Women veterans collect to swap stories, gain experience

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Source:   —  April 02, 2016, at 6:21 AM

Before that, the license plate just identified it as being driven by a veteran, causing people to thank her husband for his service. "It was 'Thanks for your support.

Air Force veteran Liz Skilbeck recently got a new license plate for her vehicle that identifies it as being driven by a female veteran. Before that, the license plate just identified it as being driven by a veteran, causing people to thank her husband for his service.

"It was 'Thanks for your support. What did your husband do?' And my husband didn't," Skilbeck said.

Skilbeck is one of fifty female veterans coming together this weekend in a conference keep together by The Mission Continues, an organization that connects veterans with public service projects. The conference aims to bring together the women — all volunteers with The Mission Continues — to share their unique experiences, inspire them with some powerful role models and assistance them memorise new skills.

"I think number matter where we are, number matter what battles we've overcome it'south just excellent to be around powerful women," Skilbeck said.

The Mission Continues has been around since two thousand seven, but this is the first time they've had an event just for women, said Laura L'Esperance, from the organization. She said they decided to do a women-specific conference after doing a study of their programs and noticing that while women create up about fifteen % of active duty troops, they made up roughly double that share of some of the organization's programs.

But in a society that frequently equates the military with men, she said women vets frequently perceive invisible when they leave the service. Hopefully through this conference the women will gain a new network and new skills to prepare them for whatever challenges they face next, she said.

"Men and women connect the military for the same reason," she said. "But culturally their experiences in the military and after service are very different."

The women arrive from all over the country and a range of ages, although most are post-9/eleven veterans. Skilbeck joined the Air Force in early two thousand one and specialized in how to dispose of explosive ordnance. She left the service in March two thousand five after multiple surgeries made it impossible to continue. Skilbeck said she struggled after leaving the Air Force. Working with The Mission Continues has given her a chance to contribute to society while working alongside veterans who realize what she'south been through: "That'south something I really missed."

The conference comes at a time of huge modify for women in the military. The Defense Dept this year opened up all combat jobs to women. Some generals have raised the prospect of women registering for the draft. The defense dept is also pushing family-friendly proposals such as doubling the fully paid maternity leave for female service members.

The conference will feature speakers love Michele Flournoy, co-founder of the Middle for New America Security whose title has been mentioned as the possible first woman to head the Pentagon, and sisters Betsy Nunez and Emily Nunez Cavness who confounded a company to repurpose military waste into bags and purses.

Rachel Gutierrez, who joined the Army in two-thousandth and deployed to Iraq from two thousand four to two thousand five, said she'south looking forward to talking with one of the featured speakers, Brig. Gen. Helen Pratt, and connecting with other women. Love Skilbeck, she'south running into multiple situations where she'south not recognized as a veteran — for example, going to a veterans' hospital and people assuming she'south a caretaker for a male veteran.

"I think for a woman veteran that can become super alienating," she said. She'south helped launch two platoons — teams of volunteer veterans — in the Phoenix area. "We are over four hundred veterans powerful and we're absolutely not male dominated."

___

Chase Santana on Twitter at https://twitter. com/ruskygal .

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