The Las Positas Veterans First Program hosted a presentation about women veterans in honor of Women’s Military History Week at Las Positas College. The presentation included a panel of six women veterans: three from the U.S. Navy, two from the U.S. Army and one from the U.S. Coast Guard. The presentation raised general awareness of women veterans in the community.
Governor Jerry Brown signed a proclamation on March 11, 2013, that declared March 18 through 24 to be Women’s Military History Week. The proclamation mentions the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, which granted permanent positions in all military branches to women and entitled them to veteran’s benefits.
The proclamation highlights Deborah Sampson of Massachusetts, who is recognized as the first known woman soldier in the United States Armed Forces during the Revolutionary War. Also recognized in the proclamation is the first female four-star general, Lieutenant General Ann E. Dunwoody, of the United States Army.
“This is Women’s History Month, so there are a lot of events going on nationwide as well,” said Lindsey Sin, Deputy Secretary for Women Veterans. “It’s really important that we see more of this happen in community colleges.”
After serving in the Army, Star Lara began attending classes at Cal State East Bay, where she found the transition to college life challenging. The different life experiences she gained through the military made it difficult for her to relate with college students.
While Lara could pick out a male veteran by the way they carried themselves, she had difficulties identifying female veterans. She realized the problem was that she did not yet consider herself to be a veteran, despite having served more than 12 years in the Army. When Lara finally accepted the fact that she was a veteran, she was able to redefine just what a veteran was.
“The more female veterans that I come in contact with, the more I am able to broaden my perspective,” said Lara, the current Women Veteran Coordinator for Swords to Plowshares.
Nationwide, there are 1.5 million female veterans with a median age of 48, whereas the average age of a male veteran is 62. Women account for roughly eight percent of the veteran population, and 185,269 of them call California home, according to the California Department of Veterans Affairs website, calvet.org.
Despite the recent lift of the ban on women serving in combat roles, combat is nothing new to women. Female veterans face adversity unique to their gender and require the same support and respect as male veterans do.