Tallahassee-based non-profit brings local Women Veterans together
Women Veterans Unite was founded during the Pandemic and recently reached 501(c)3 status.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - According to Governor Ron Desantis, Florida is home to the second-largest population of Women Veterans in the nation, with more than 162-thousand. While they are one of the fastest-growing segments of the Veterans’ population, many of the struggle with feeling invisible when compared to their male counterparts.
Now, a new group of ladies in Tallahassee is banding together to take back the narrative and bring awareness to the service and sacrifice that hundreds of thousands of women have made.
“We wore dresses. We wore skirts and jackets,” said Marianne Scholer. “No women on ships.”
Scholer enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War era. It was a tough time for Veterans who were not respected by a large population of American citizens due to political unrest. It was also a time when there were not a lot of women like her serving in the military. But now, she has joined forces with a new group of gals that can relate to her experience.
“We’re like a very unique set of people,” Jamela Browne told WCTV’s Katie Kaplan. “A lot of us (sic) we’ve been on the frontline. You know? We’ve been to war. You know? We’ve been to battle.”
Browne served the U.S. Army in Chemical Operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. She is one of roughly 70 women of all ages and backgrounds who are members of ‘Women Veterans Unite,’ a group that was founded during the Pandemic and recently reached 501(c)3 status.
Every third Thursday of the month the organization meets for friendship and camaraderie that has been hard for the women to find anywhere else.
“Having this group, we can talk about those things,” said Stormie Doyle, who served as a Radioman First Class in the Navy during the Vietnam Era. “We all understand.”
The meetings serve as a refuge of sorts for the Women Veterans, but it is the brainchild of a civilian who has noticed the lack of inclusion during a Veterans Day Parade.
“I realized that society as a whole seems to forget that women are Veterans too,” said Muriel Kweyama.
Kweyama is now an honorary member of the group, which is on a mission to stave off the stigma and bring awareness.
“Women Veterans don’t get taken seriously,” said Doyle.
“Because you’re a woman, they don’t think that it’s an experience that you ever had, so they downgrade,” added Browne.
“The Armed Forces (sic) is a male dominant world, (sic) created by males,” said Audrey Alexander who retired as a Major from the U.S. Army. “A lot of times, I just don’t think that the male gets it as far as the perspective on a woman and what the woman needs.”
In this area, the women said some progress has already been made. For example, in recent years the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has expanded women’s services.
“There’s a lot of changes for the best,” said Tiffany Hill, who served as a Combat Medic in the Army during Operation Desert Storm. “They really are starting to push things more for Women Veterans, you know? We are not invisible.”
In addition, in Fall the local Women Veterans were honored as Grand Marshals and the highlight of the Tallahassee Veterans Day Parade.
“The energy was different,” said Browne. “It was like, you know, ‘finally,’ right? Just to feel accepted, just to be heard, you know? Just to be seen.”
This year, the local ladies have also been invited to throw out the honorary first pitch at area high school softball games.
“I practiced quite a bit because I wanted to uphold the honor of Women Veterans,” said Scholer.
The women, now finding their strength in numbers and feeling invisible no longer.
Women Veterans United has set its sights on Tallahassee National Cemetery and hopes to eventually get a permanent memorial installed that will pay homage to their sister’s-in-arms. They also host an annual wellness retreat.
If you are a lady Veteran and would like to connect with the group, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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