TACOMA, Wash. - “The goal is to bring the appropriate attention to women veterans, veteran affairs in terms of their overall wellness,” said John E. Lee, the Director of the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs, a Vietnam War veteran and a retired Command Sgt. Maj. of the U.S. Army who completed his last term at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in 1990. “The uniqueness is what they face, not only when they are active but, when they exit military service.”
The conference focused on a holistic approach to overall well being by exposing women veterans to a stimulation of new ideas from within their community. The new approach promotes future growth and prosperity in the female veteran population from inside out.
Valuable resources and experiences were shared about the transition to civilian life.
With the Department of the Army making an effort to down-size the active duty Army from 570,000 to 490,000 by 2017, Retired U. S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Lourdes E. “Alfie” Alvarado-Ramos, the Deputy Director for the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs who served her last year of military service at JBLM said, “We are positioned to be able to answer the demand to assist a higher number of women veterans.”
About 400 service members exiting military service seek assistance from the Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs each month and 20 percent of those are women.
Powerful women-veteran leaders in the community who have transitioned to the civilian sector were attracted to the conference with a mission of reaching out to arm their peers with priceless experiences.
Former U.S. Army Capt. Janis Gbalah, who completed her military career at JBLM and is the founder of Safe Homes in Pierce County, obtained information from the conference that may potentially benefit other female veterans she helps through her program called, “Ladies Operation Moving Forward” (LOMF).
LOMF is scheduled to incorporate a new program next month called VET Tech Café which will be the only Veterans Technology Center in Wash. and will provide online resources to help veterans obtain the educational resources they need to find jobs.
The open line of communication, from leaders giving their encouragement and personal advice, was the heart behind the conference.
Retired U. S. Army Brig. Gen. Rebecca “Becky” Halstead, the first female Chief of Ordnance and Commanding General of the Army’s Ordnance Center and Schools, gave a motivational speech called, “Surviving to Thriving”, that addressed leadership and personal life changing skills which was the motto she adopted during her experiences in and out of the Army.
With a full agenda of networking sessions at the conference and so much information to obtain, female veterans who couldn’t attend were able to receive a second opportunity.
Lee, the Washington Director of Veteran Affairs advised female veterans who were present to obtain the names and numbers of other women they know who couldn’t attend and send them to him so that he could personally guide them to the appropriate services.
Lee’s philosophy of making services at Veteran Affairs more readily available sends a personal message to service members in Wash. Taking a holistic approach and the positive help from the community contributes to veteran services as a unique and effective experience.
With transitioning tools learned at conferences like this along with the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs support, military women have a better opportunity to survive and thrive.