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I Am Not Invisible
I Am Not Invisible

"It has been an honor serving my country, and serving the military WOMEN and men in and out of the service. Now, my journey is serving my sisters."

- Jessica Astorga
United States Air Force Veteran

I AM NOT INVISIBLE

The I Am Not Invisible Campaign aims to increase awareness and dialogue about women veterans as well as open viewers’ eyes to the myriad contributions, needs and experiences of women who served in the military. The campaign also creates an avenue to increase understanding of the benefits, programs and services that women veterans earned. Ohio’s campaign features more than 70 women. Click on their photos and learn the stories behind their journeys during and after military service, and view a video.

MEET THE VETERANS

DEBORAH ARNTSON

DEBORAH ARNTSON

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"What inspired me to enlist in the military was to learn a trade that I could use in my life after I retired. I chose the Army because it let me choose the job that I wanted to do after the ASVAB. My active duty stations were the 108th ADA Brigade in Kaiserslautern, Germany; MP CO USAAMC, Fort Knox, Kentucky and the 32nd AADCOM in Darmstadt, Germany. During my time I was 71L and a 95B. My Army Reserve duty stations were the 342nd MP CO and the 447th MP CO in Zanesville, Ohio. My deployments were Operation Noble Eagle from October 2001 to September 2002 in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and Operation Enduring Freedom (Iraq) February 2003 to January 2004.The medals I received while in the military are the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (5th Award), National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal (1st Hourglass Device and Mobilization Device) (2nd Award), Army Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Force Medal.During my reserve time I was the Unit Administrator for 13 years before my retirement in January 2012."

DEBORAH ASHENHURST

DEBORAH ASHENHURST

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"In 1978, I enlisted in the Army National Guard, at the recommendation of my father, to receive the tuition benefits for college. I found that the military was a great fit for my personality and lifestyle, and that I was a good fit for the military.

As I entered basic training I was actually issued WAC (Women’s Army Corps) brass, not the U.S insignia issued to the male recruits, even though the law abolishing the WAC had been passed that very year. It was a big deal to me to turn-in that WAC insignia and pin U.S. on my uniform, indicating that I was officially a member of the U.S. Army – not an auxiliary corps. After 37 years of service, and many interesting and challenging assignments, I retired as a Major General. The greatest, of many highlights, was serving as the Adjutant General of Ohio, leading more than 17,000 members of the Ohio Army National Guard, the Ohio Air National Guard, the Ohio Military Reserve and the Ohio Naval Militia.

My military service opened many doors for me. I had the privilege to serve on many boards and in many organizations. Most notably, after serving on the Board of Directors for over 10 years, I was elected to serve as the first female Chair of the Board of Directors for the National Guard Association of the United States.

After retiring from the military, I was enjoying life under the best title ever given – Grandma! But that wasn’t to be my fulltime job for long. I was asked, and accepted the opportunity to work for Governor Mike DeWine, as his Director of Veteran Services for Ohio. I thoroughly enjoy serving the incredible veterans of this great state, and work every day to make a difference for someone, if even in some small manner."

JESSICA ASTORGA

JESSICA ASTORGA

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

"My military journey started in August 2000 and ended in August 2013. Most of my Air Force career was serving as a Critical Care Nurse. I deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, working in combat theater hospitals.

My career was cut short when I was medically discharged for Major Depressive Disorder. Since then, I have been trying to re-integrate into civilian life. What I knew of civilian life as an ambitious, 'ready-to-conquer-the-world' 23-year-old was totally contrasted to the civilian world I came back to as an exhausted and defeated 36 year-old. Most likely, it was my military-minded psych and personality; the ingrained trauma, depression and paranoia proved to be problematic conformities that resulted in reproach from my civilian counterparts.

I have faced many heartbreaking and challenging life transitions. I lost my career, I lost my marriage, and I lost custody of one of my children. I literally 'hit rock bottom'. What I thought my life was, was actually turned-upside-down. I didn’t know what to do, and didn’t know where to go. No one understood what I was going through. I lost my purpose...my mission.
My healing through this transition, has been mostly from painstakingly researching and seeking out programs and resources for help. I’ve definitely did the work. Every day is still a struggle, but I found my new purpose. My calling is to work and serve women veterans. I want to let them know, 'You haven’t been forgotten,' and 'To be PROUD of your service in our military'.
It has been an honor serving my country, and serving the military WOMEN and men in and out of the service. Now, my journey is serving my sisters."

ANGELA BELTZ

ANGELA BELTZ

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I was born in South Dakota and raised in South/North Dakota. When asked where I am originally from, I say “the Dakotas”. I joined the North Dakota Army National Guard in 1986, split option, attending basic training at age 17, at Fort Dix, New Jersey, the summer between my junior and senior years of high school.

Deploying for Desert Shield/Storm was a life changing experience for me, to be part of history, where women deployed in higher numbers than any conflict to that date. It also led me to Ohio in 1991.

Following my deployment, I was honored by my Tribal Elders of the Spirit Lake Nation as a Warrior (Akicita) with two Native names: I Am Not Afraid Woman and She Rides Her Horse. I am a descendant of Akicita’s that served in every conflict - two aunts who were WAVES (WWII) and great grandfather, a scout for the U.S. Calvary.

I retired as a Sergeant First Class in 2008, with 21.5 years of service. I am a proud combat veteran, military spouse and military mom. Currently, I am serving my second term as chair of the Oho Women Veterans Advisory Committee, alongside my sisters-in arms, advocating for 67,000+ women veterans in Ohio."

VALERIE BENNETT

VALERIE BENNETT

UNITED STATES ARMY

"I entered the United States Army on 14 January 2003 and attended Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I attended advanced individual training at Fort Lee, Virginia for MOS 92G, Food Service Specialist.

I am a West Virginia native who has lived in Ohio for four years. Assignments included 35th Signal Brigade, Fort Bragg, North Carolina from 2003 to 2006 as a Food Service Specialist; Recruiting Command from 2006 to 2008 with Harrisburg BN in Pennsylvania; 86th Combat Support Hospital, Fort Campbell, Kentucky where I served as a Platoon Sergeant; and S3 Operations, 4-5 Air Defense Artillery BN, Fort Hood, Texas from 2011 to 2016 where I completed a deployment to Ali Al Salem, Kuwait from 2011 to 2012. My current assignment is with the 454 Transportation Company out of Columbus, Ohio from 2016 to the present.

I am currently employed by the Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) as a Military Education Assistant. I am honored to have the opportunity to work with a great group of veterans and the opportunity to interact with the wonderful veterans of the state of Ohio."

STACEY BERKHEIMER

STACEY BERKHEIMER

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

HEATHER BRINK

HEATHER BRINK

UNITED STATES ARMY

"I joined the Army Reserves not long after graduating high school to be part of something bigger, to further my education, and to prove to myself and those around me that I could meet the physical and mental demands of the Army.

I served in both Transportation and Maintenance and culminated my service with a two-year mobilization with the 88th RRC in support of Operation Noble Eagle. In many instances, I would be the only female which greatly prepared me for my current career in construction management where I am often the only woman in the room. My experiences within the military taught me how to adapt to any situation, make informed decisions, and lead when in situations of being responsible but not necessarily in charge.

Ultimately, I did find myself involved with something much bigger and even now am amazed at the connections and sense of family being part of the military brings when meeting other veterans. I did get the opportunity to further my education, but the education I believe I benefit from most is the one I gained from my military experiences of handling situations, dealing with people, and being the only female in the room."

DEE DEE BRYANT

DEE DEE BRYANT

UNITED STATES ARMY

"Following in the footsteps of my mother and aunts, and desiring to further my education, I enlisted in the Army Reserves in 2002. I served as an automated logistical specialist - attached to the 15th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne) - until 2009. Although fewer women were to be found in areas dealing with vehicles (the motor pool, 'Hooah'!), equipment, and supplies, the bonds forged with my comrades-in-arms, carry on to this day.

After serving in support of both Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), encounters with other service members inspired me to reclassify as a medical laboratory specialist. In addition to gaining added experience as a member of a Medical Support Unit, a final CONUS mobilization in support of the Armed Services Blood Program topped off my career, prior to discharging in 2015.

Since leaving the Army Reserves, I've completed my pursuit of a Bachelor's degree, and gained higher certification in my field. All of the sacrifices required as a soldier and pride attained at being a female veteran, shape every part of the person I am today.
Being a veteran should never be equated with being invisible - because WE are not just here, we are everywhere."

SHANNON CARROLL

SHANNON CARROLL

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE

"I served in the United States Air Force from 1989 to 2009. I spent half of my career in overseas assignments, to include a joint deployment to Afghanistan. I also served a joint assignment with the Joint Communications Support Element. My career allowed me to work every aspect of a diverse Information/Knowledge Management career field; culminating at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio as the Training Manager for 30+ Knowledge Managers across the installation.

Since retiring, I have continued my service as a civil servant at Wright-Patterson AFB and continue to mentor and guide Airmen and fellow government civilians on identifying and achieving their goals, as well as reaching their promotion potential. I am the Vice President of the Miami Valley Chapter of the Federally Employed Women organization and I seek to bring informative, powerful and timely presentations to as many women as we can as well as fully supporting federal women’s progression.
I am extremely proud of my active duty time and that I continue to serve the Air Force, albeit in civilian clothes."

ALAURA CASON

ALAURA CASON

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

CHELSIE CLEMENTS

CHELSIE CLEMENTS

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

TRINA CUTTER

TRINA CUTTER

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE

"I was born and raised in Canton, Ohio. I’m a veteran of the USAF. I spent my entire tour of duty at the 607th Air Control Training Squadron at Luke AFB, Arizona, working as an Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) operator.

About six months after I enlisted, the Air Force created the Senior Airman rank. The SrA sleeve chevrons had three stripes and a blue star in the middle instead of the white star that was on the 'buck sergeant' chevrons. From Airman First Class, I was promoted 'below the zone' to Senior Airman and was allowed to test for the Staff Sergeant rank. With very little time in service and hardly no time in grade, my knowledge of the Air Force in general and my specific job specifically, got me the necessary score to be promoted to Staff Sergeant (E-5).

Thanks to that promotion, one day I went to work with the Senior Airman insignia on my sleeve. The following day I temporarily 'glued' on the Buck Sergeant insignia. And the next day, I permanently sewed on the Staff Sergeant stripes.
I might be only one of a few, or maybe the only person, that had the rank of Buck Sergeant for a single day!"

CARLY DENDINGER

CARLY DENDINGER

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

CANDISE DIDYK

CANDISE DIDYK

UNITED STATES NAVY

"I served three years onboard the USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) as an Aviation Support Equipment Technician (AS). At the time, my spouse had joined the service and got out in 2004. I craved the military structure and lifestyle so I decided to join myself.

I chose the Navy because I wanted to experience the world through travel. My father boasted about being a mechanic throughout my childhood so I chose a job that was mechanically inclined. During my service, I received several awards to include: National Defense Service medal, Global War on Terrorism Service medal, Navy/Marine Corps Achievement medal, Sea Service Deployment ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary medal, Flag Letter of Commendation, Navy 'E' ribbon, Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist, Good Conduct medal, Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist.

Today, 11 years after my discharge, I strive to help others with their struggles with getting out of the service. I felt alone and helpless when I left the military. I felt disconnected. I felt invisible. I try to connect with others through text messaging and make a small impact on their daily lives, while leading by example for my two children, ages 5 and 7."

KRISTIN DILLENBURGER

KRISTIN DILLENBURGER

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS VETERAN

"I am originally from Bangor, Maine. After a year of college at the University of Maine, I felt like I needed more from life. I served in the Marine Corps from 2007 to 2015 as a Public Affairs specialist, your modern day 'Joker' from Full Metal Jacket. I was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Recruiting Station New York.

Upon separation from the Corps, I began graduate school at the University of Cincinnati. I graduate with my Master's in Architecture in Spring 2020. My thesis looks at how prison architecture can better support the goals of rehabilitation, instead of punishment, to reduce recidivism rates."
 

KELLIE KING FECIUCH

KELLIE KING FECIUCH

UNITED STATES ARMY

"I signed up for Active Duty Army in 1996. I was failing out of community college and wanted to find direction and adventure. I left for basic training in January 1997 at the age of 21 perusing the MOS of 63W or Major Component Replacement Diesel Mechanic.

Being a petite young female, friends and family had their doubts about my follow through on such a masculine focused organization. Basic training was an eye opening experience, full of culture and strength. I excelled physically and was quickly sought out to assist in physical demonstrations. I had never played a sport in my life, so being physically strong was a new concept to me. For reference, I was in the band in high school.

I was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas with 4th ID until I completed my tour in January 2000. I returned to Ohio and joined the Ohio Army National Guard (OANG) and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. I worked as a Mechanic/Supervisor and completed Convoy Operations while in Afghanistan and I was assigned to be an assistant to a Brigade Colonel and CSM in Iraq. I am continuing my service in the OANG with 23 years service and counting.
In the civilian sector, I completed a Master’s Degree in School Counseling and Mental Health Counseling. I assist soldiers obtain therapy for emotional and mental issues. I also travel around the state educating communities on military culture and mental health first aid. I actively advocate for support systems for veterans and service members.

That physical strength I mentioned earlier is slowly being converted into strength to help my brothers and sisters get the help they deserve. I am a proud lady veteran and service member standing strong and tall next to my sisters and brothers."

CLAUDIA FOSS

CLAUDIA FOSS

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

"I’m an Air Force veteran married to a veteran and daughter of a veteran: I was born to be an Airman. I’m honored to have served 20 years; four years in Combat Camera and 16 years in Public Affairs with 13 different assignments in five countries.
Since 1989 till the day I retired in 2009, I had the privilege to be assigned or witness to and participate in history: the NYC Welcome Home Parade for Desert Storm Troops, Inauguration of the President of the United States, press conference announcing the capture of Sadam Hussein, surviving and recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

The assignments I’m most proud of were deployments: six months in Iraq and 12 months in Afghanistan.

The Iraq deployment taught me the most about defending our constitutional rights. Traveling across Iraq to 11 cities, meeting with governors, Iraqi Governing Council members, and Iraqi citizens, we trained them to participate and establish 28 nationally and internationally televised democracy dialogues to unify Iraq. These were the first publicly debated discussions on democracy in more than 30 years, reaching 25 million Iraqis via televised events.
We are here. We are proud. We are not invisible."

JESSICA FRY-HAMILTON

JESSICA FRY-HAMILTON

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

DOROTHY GARDNER

DOROTHY GARDNER

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I enlisted in the United States Women’s Army Corps after high school graduation in September 1965. I was motivated to enlist by my dad, Luster Smith, a World War II veteran.

I applied for admittance to the Army Language School three times in 1966. The first two responses from DOD were rejections citing that there were no facilities for women. The third response was orders to Vietnam.

My time in Vietnam was a frightful awakening and a learning experience. I saw too many wounded brothers and hundreds of coffins being prepared for the return to America. I saw people living in fear with nothing, however, attempting to survive. I have never gotten over my fear of loud noises.

While in Vietnam, my lifelong friend Susie McArthur introduced me to my husband; Billy and I celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary January 2020.

The Army prepared me for civilian life. I was discharged due to pregnancy in 1969. After the birth of my first son, Billy Jr., I began work as an entry level clerk for the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD). After the birth of my next two sons, Darryll and Terrance, I remained with CPD for the next 33 years retiring as the CPD Records Director.

I was able to accomplish my career objectives due to: clerical training at Ft. McClellan, Alabama; clerical work experience at Ft. Meade, Maryland; Vietnam and Ft. Monroe, Virginia.

The United States Women’s Army prepared me for life. I am damn proud that I served my country and I would do it again.
I wear my Vietnam Veteran cap every day, however, it is not noticed by the public. Conversely, my husband wears his Korea Defense cap and is constantly thanked for his service. Invisible?"

BETH GARINO

BETH GARINO

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I was a member of the US Army and then the West Virginia Air National Guard for several years. I joined as a Combat Medic and shipped out for active duty training in February 1991.

I joined for two basic reasons. The first one is that my grandfather was a Colonel in the US Army Medical Corp during the 1940’s. The second reason is that my boyfriend at the time told me I would never succeed as a soldier...he was a US Marine.
Once you are a medic you learn that your motivation and outlook directly shapes someone’s recovery. I was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division in Northern Germany and also the National Training Center (NTC) in the Mojave Desert in California. We helped train Active and Reserves for combat in the desert. My duty station was either an Emergency Room, Field Army Hospital or UH-1 Helicopter.

Some days were difficult as medical situations don’t always have a positive outcome but being a soldier and serving the country that I love is something that I will never regret. Being a soldier changes you - the pride in commitment and service never leaves you."

NOREEN LYNN GIBSON

NOREEN LYNN GIBSON

UNITED STATES NAVY VETERAN

"I am a 1989 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, the 10th class to graduate women.

As a Navy Oceanographer and Meteorologist my billets included:
• Pearl Harbor, Hawaii: Forecast Duty Officer, Optimum Track Ship Routing Duty Officer, Typhoon Duty Officer, Oceanographic Services Officer
• Suitland, Maryland: Flight meteorologist with the International Ice Patrol
• Washington, D.C. (Pentagon): Weather briefer for the CNO and SecNav
• Souda Bay, Crete: Officer in Charge of the weather detachment supporting Middle East Operations

Through Troops to Teachers, I received my certification and Masters degree from Xavier University, and taught biology, chemistry and physics in rural Ohio schools. Having danced since age three, I always wanted my own studio and opened Noreen’s School of Dance in 1996; our 25th season began in 2020.

I founded the non-profit, Dance For All, to provide opportunities for children and adults with medical and physical challenges. Dance For All’s Fitness Aerial 89 (F/A 89) Program helps veterans relieve PTSD symptoms.

As women, we are a vital part of the veteran community. Our diversity and courage to be ourselves will help open the hearts, minds and eyes of current and future generations. We can lead the thinking of others to provoke, encourage and inspire. Onward!"

LORI GOOD

LORI GOOD

UNITED STATES NAVY VETERAN

"Leaving Ohio to join the Navy was an event that changed my life forever. I left a young impressionable rural girl, to join the greatest Navy in the world! No one was going to stop me!

I was successful in bootcamp, struggled through Radioman ‘A’ school, but was selected to go to ‘C’ school to repair teletypes and electronic equipment. I had always been curious how and why things worked. My Navy experience taught me to figure out problems logically, using problem solving skills. The Navy taught me punctuality, respect, and patriotism. It taught me to stand up for what I believe and to understand other cultures and their beliefs.
Go Navy!"

PAMELA GRAY

SUSAN SHUGERT GREEN

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

PAMELA GRAY

SUSAN SHUGERT GREEN

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"All of my adult life, the military has given my great opportunities that I would not have otherwise had! Shortly after graduating from high school, I joined the Army by entering the United States Military Academy at West Point. At the time, women at West Point were new, and I didn't know a private from a general. Fortunately, I did realize West Point was too great of an opportunity to miss, and it might just be the right fit and challenge for me.

Twenty-four years later, I retired from the Army, but continue to enjoy service opportunities in my community, state and Army. Thus far along my life's journey, I have been a cadet, Army officer, team member, corporate manager, high school teacher, coach, business owner, board member, volunteer, mentor, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, and a few more roles.

I am most proud to be a mom to my three sons of which two also chose to serve in the Army! I am most thankful for my Army family and sisters-in-arms! I am a Soldier for Life!"

JANE JEFFERS GRIFFIN

JANE JEFFERS GRIFFIN

UNITED STATES NAVY VETERAN

"I served in the US Navy from October 1973 to February 1981. I enlisted in the US Navy as an E-1 going to boot camp at the Recruit Training Command Orlando, Florida. After meeting with the US Navy detailer to determine my career field, I was offered a career in the Advanced Electronics Field (AEF) as a Data Systems Technician based on my ASVAB scores.

My original enlistment was for four years; my agreement to go into AEF career field required that I extend my obligated service an additional two years for total six years with perks of graduating from boot camp as an E-3 and guaranteed 1-year training (A and C schools) at Mare Island Vallejo, CA.

I took the offer not realizing that this career decision was to set me up for the rest of my life.

I served my country proudly using the GI Bill to further my education (AAS, BS, MBA) upon honorably being discharged. I worked as a contractor developing software for US Navy Aegis class ships and Electronic Surveillance aircraft before accepting a civilian government position within the DoD USAF Intelligence world. I later completed a MS at AFIT full-time.
I’m very proud to have served my country and continue to serve as a Brown County veterans office commissioner."

THERESA SCHROEDER HAGEMAN

THERESA SCHROEDER HAGEMAN

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

"When the attacks of 9/11 happened, I had already decided to join the Air Force ROTC program. 9/11 only solidified my desire to serve and care for our fighting men and women. I commissioned in 2005 and headed to Travis AFB to start my duties as a clinical nurse.

Even though I served stateside, I came face to face with the impact of war on individuals. Some of my patients were survivors of the Bataan Death March, the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as OEF/OIF. It was during these years that my interest shifted from treating the wounds of war to learning about why wars happen because I witnessed its lasting effect on the people who bore its burden.

I separated from the Air Force in 2010 and earned a Ph.D. in political science. Now I am a professor, educating the next generation about the relationship between war, the military, and the individual, highlighting women’s experiences.
My commission in the Air Force is one my proudest achievements and my time there includes some of my happiest memories. My experiences in the military pointed me to my current path and directs my research and teaching."

LAUREN HARGIS

LAUREN HARGIS

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

ANGELA HARRIS

ANGELA HARRIS

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

CHRISTINE HARRIS

CHRISTINE HARRIS

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

STEFANIE HAUCK

STEFANIE HAUCK

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

"I served in the US Air Force and Air Force Reserve retiring in 2013 with the rank of MSgt. (E-7). I was a 2G071 Logistics Planner responsible for getting personnel and equipment anywhere around the world at a moment's notice. As a deployed log planner, my team was responsible for getting the last combat truckers out of Iraq in 2011 and 2012.

I have continued my service in my communications work with AMVETS Department of Ohio and by volunteering with Team Rubicon, Mission Continues, Team RWB and the ODVS Women Veterans Advisory Committee. I am pursuing a Master's in Sustainability at Chatham University in Pittsburgh via long distance learning because I want to make the world a better place by solving complex natural, social, economic and political issues caused by our changing climate.

Upon graduation in May 2020, I hope to enter the federal service to work on policies to adapt and mitigate these changes which affect marginalized and vulnerable populations the most. Many veterans live below or at the poverty level making them vulnerable to climatic changes like lack of food, flooding, heat waves etc.

The biggest challenge I've experienced as a veteran is obtaining employment that pays a living wage and I'm often ignored at public events in favor of my husband who is also a veteran. They thank him for his service and completely ignore me even though I have a hat and jacket that says I'm a veteran. The only time I get noticed is if I actually wear my AF Blues or ABUs in public. It shouldn't have to be this way.

I AM NOT INVISIBLE. I AM HERE. I MATTER."

CHRISTINA HELM

CHRISTINA HELM

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I served in the U.S. Army from 1985 -1993, as an enlisted reservist and active-duty as a noncommissioned officer (Sergeant-SGT). I was deployed to serve in Operation Desert Shield/Storm as a Combat Medic.

I am a West Virginia native who has lived in Ohio for numerous years. I joined the Army shortly after graduating high school. I completed basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey and completed advanced training at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio Texas. I have a Bachelor of Science degree, field of study Accounting. I earned the following military awards during my service, Army Commendation Medals (2), Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Medical Badge, Kuwait Liberation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Southwest Asia Service Medal w2 bronze service stars, Sharpshooter Marksmanship Badge-Rifle M-16, Marksmanship Badge-Grenade, to include receiving an Honorable Discharge.

I am employed by the Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) as a Financial Program Manager, and I’m also a Certified Fraud Examiner. I am honored to have the opportunity to work with other veterans in helping connect them to earned benefits, and interacting with fellow veterans in ODVS’ Ohio Nursing Homes."

JASMIN HURLEY

JASMIN HURLEY

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2005. I commissioned in the U.S. Army as a Military Police officer, serving at the company and battalion levels while stationed in Hanau and Baumholder, Germany; Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri; and Ft. Riley, Kansas. I deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008 to 2009, where I earned the Bronze Star Medal. I left active duty in 2011 and moved to Ohio with my husband.

After leaving active duty, I worked in a corporate environment in Central Ohio before pursuing my childhood goal of becoming an attorney. I graduated from the University of Dayton School of Law in 2016. I currently practice law in the corporate department with the law firm of Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur LLP in Columbus. I also am a wife, and mother of two children.

I believe service to the country is just one way to make an impact on our communities. I am dedicated to increasing access to justice by volunteering in pro bono programs. I also work to raise the profile of women veterans within the state, as one of the founding members of a non-profit focused on women Veterans issues.

KELLY JONES-SWENSON

KELLY JONES-SWENSON

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I enlisted in the Ohio Army National Guard in 1986 as a senior in high school. I was assigned to the Headquarters Battalion for the 136th Field Artillery located in Columbus, Ohio. Our Battalion was comprised of 600 male soldiers and three female soldiers.

I spent several years supporting the Field Artillery in Columbus and the respective Batteries across the State of Ohio when Desert Storm hit. After Desert Storm, I had the opportunity to transfer to the Ohio Military Academy (OMA) to be a leadership and fitness instructor. I spent six years with the OMA and earned the rank of SSG (E-6) before my enlistment ended.

The 10 years I committed to the military were instrumental in developing me as a young woman. It gave me the confidence and discipline to be leader, a lifelong learner and to continue to serve and protect those in all areas of my life.
#ArmyGuardOhio"

SARAH KESSLER

SARAH KESSLER

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

"As a third generation Air Force veteran, serving in the military was a natural decision for me. Although I was proud to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather and father, I forged my own path.

I pursued an Air Force ROTC scholarship and became the first officer in my family. My time as an active duty Air Force nurse was spent caring for my fellow service members and veterans. That’s a role that became my calling, and I’m grateful to continue this duty in my current career at the VA."

LEA KUMMERFELDT

LEA KUMMERFELDT

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

"I come from a military background and when I graduated high school I did not have a clear career path. When I reflected on how the US Air Force had treated my family, I chose to join the USAF in 1986 under the Delayed Entry Program.

I was at the MEPS station when the shuttle Challenger blew up. It was very somber. I turned 18 just after arriving at my first duty station. Yikes. In 24 years, I made it from Germany to Colorado, to Montana, back to Colorado and lastly Ohio to retire as a Career Personnelist. I was able to make good lifelong friends (who felt like family) at each location and I am so thankful for the support system they provided.

I continue to serve the USAF in the same area of expertise as a civilian and enjoy being able to still be connected. The VA has provided good medical care but even more importantly, an excellent support system as a woman veteran. I also participate in a women veterans group in the area. We share stories, information, news and we also volunteer, attend retreats and activities to continue to support each other. My family and I are very thankful for the opportunities the USAF has provided and the VA continues to provide."

JANE LENGEL

JANE LENGEL

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I was inspired to join the military by my father, a Navy Seabee in World War II. I served in the Army National Guard in logistics, human resources, and as inspector general, and mobilized for three deployments to Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq. These experiences helped me develop leadership and problem-solving skills that have been invaluable as a civilian, wife and mother.

In 1983, I was a second lieutenant assigned to a maintenance company as the first and only female officer. I can’t tell you how many times I was greeted as 'Sir,'' as I returned a salute! The years went by fast, but I had a very rewarding career of nearly 38 years and retired at the rank of colonel.

I have been a champion for veterans and their families for many years, serving as a volunteer member of the Military Veterans Educational Foundation (MILVETS), Ohio Women Veterans Advisory Committee, and other organizations. I am an avid Buckeye fan, OSU alumna, and an usher at Ohio State events. I am forever grateful to my husband and four children for their love, sacrifice and support throughout my military service. I salute all military families for their service to our great country!"

MEI-LING LIBER

MEI-LING LIBER

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

JEAN LOGAN

JEAN LOGAN

UNITED STATES NAVY VETERAN

GINGER MACCUTCHEON

GINGER MACCUTCHEON

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I enlisted in the US Army on the delayed entry program and reported for duty after my high school graduation. Although my intention was to be career Army, my experiences with Military Sexual Trauma prevented me from realizing that goal.
I have spent many years healing and striving to be an advocate for those men and women who have had similar experiences. I want most of all to let them see that a person is not defined by their trauma. My healing has been ongoing through various programs within the VA Health System. Through my Lifetime Memberships with Disabled American Veterans and AMVETS, it is possible to assist other veterans in receiving treatment and lead by example.

I am currently the DAV Department of Ohio State Chaplain and hold office in my local chapter. Through Challenge America, I have been instrumental in creating DiGI - the Digital Service Dog app - that assists veterans suffering from PTSD in daily navigation of life. I also am a trainer with Wags4Warriors, training service dogs for veterans with PTSD and TBI."

STEPHANIE MARKICH

STEPHANIE MARKICH

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1999 as a Transportation Officer and served six years in the Army. While stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany, I led convoys throughout Europe into Bosnia and Croatia. I also ran air terminal operations for units deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq at Rhein Main and Ramstein Air Bases.

I transitioned out of the Army in 2005 and moved to Ohio where I began working for Procter & Gamble. In addition to my day job at P&G, I’m heavily involved with our Veteran and Reservist Affinity Group and lead military recruiting for the company. I’ve helped hire over 100 veterans and have a passion for helping veterans as they transition out of the military into the civilian sector.

Outside of work, I’m very involved with West Point Society of Greater Cincinnati where I’m currently the Vice President. I co-lead our annual Leadership and Ethics Seminar for high school students and faculty members focused on building leaders of character within the community. Attendance at this annual event includes over 250 high school students and over 100 faculty members from around 100 local high schools."

MARKICH & SECOSKY SISTERS

MARKICH & SECOSKY SISTERS

MELISSA MCOWEN

MELISSA MCOWEN

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

"My military career started before I was born. I grew up at Camp LeJeune Marine Corps Base and knew that was the direction I would go until the day I meet my recruiter. A senior in high school, I became Delayed Entry and two weeks after turning 18 I was headed to San Antonio. I joined the United States Air Force.

Assigned to the 11th Wing and stationed in Washington, DC, I became the first woman to sling mail bags often weighing more than my own weight to offices at Bolling AFB, the Pentagon, and Andrews AFB, now Andrews JB, many of which are multi-level and without elevators. I served from 1992 to 1996 and prior to exiting the service I was an integral part of establishing a previously non-existent reference library.

I am a voice of the Camp LeJeune Toxic Water phenomenon. I’m a Legionnaire with the Greater Cincinnati Women’s Post 644. I never saw war and yet I’ve lived the results. I use the skills I’ve gained to give back through exceptional experiences, donating my time and money to People Working Cooperatively, Ramp It Up for Veteran’s program. Real Estate is my catalyst.
I am here. I am proud. I Am Not Invisible."

MONIQUE MENEFEE-PROFITT

MONIQUE MENEFEE-PROFITT

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

"In 1993, fresh out of high school and full of hopes and aspirations, I joined the United States Air Force. I was proud to wear the uniform and lend my talents while serving my country. I was a trained Radio Communications Specialist within the Communications Squadron at McClellan AFB, California.

My supervisor and chain of command quickly noticed my natural leadership tendencies. I was promoted to shift supervisor well in advance of my time in rank or service. I was entrusted to run an entire global operation within my unit. Wow! Words cannot describe the pride I felt as I directed and led my peers and superiors.

My love for learning and teaching launched me to also become my shops trainer. I personally trained all incoming Airmen. I streamlined and strengthened our radio communications training processes, to ensure personnel were equipped and confident to perform and exceed expectations.

In 1998, I separated from the Air Force and returned home to Ohio. However, my love of learning and teaching did not wane or falter. I pursued a post-secondary education, using the Montgomery G.I Bill. I have earned several degrees including my M.Ed., Master of Education in Higher Education Administration."

ROBERTA MERSHON

ROBERTA MERSHON

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I joined the Army Nurse Corps while still a senior in nursing school in 1968. I was stationed at Ft. Ord, California before being deployed to Long Bien, Vietnam. There I worked as a staff nurse in a surgical intensive care ward at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital. It was a period in my life I will never forget. It was an honor to be one of the few women at that time to serve in a combat zone providing nursing care to our severely injured soldiers.

Since then I have continued to give back to my community and country by serving on City Council in my home community, fundraising for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project, serving as Commissioner on the Franklin County Veterans Service Board and by serving on the Board of the VVA Buckeye State Council as Women Liaison Committee chair."

LAURA MILES

LAURA MILES

UNITED STATES NAVY VETERAN

"I enlisted in 2002 and served two tours abroad with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion THREE (NMCB-3), the 'Better than Best' Battalion. I joined the Navy Seabees during a time when women were still carving a place amongst our male counterparts and achieved the rank of Builder Petty Officer 2nd Class, Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist.

I was tasked as an instrumental part of establishing the way the Naval Construction Force built their operational readiness plans after 9/11. I traveled as one of the very few female Master Training Specialists tasked with training and building of rapport among the Reserve Components as an Instructor. I served abroad during peacetime tours, along with one tour in Iraq and Afghanistan during two sea duty tours. In Afghanistan, I led a team of 13 women and managed a $3 dollar budget in support of the US Army Special Forces.

I was one of hundreds that was part of a force reduction and returned home to Ohio to rebuild. My transition was extremely difficult. My team at the Chillicothe VA and the programs afforded by ODVS have been instrumental in finding my new battle rhythm. It’s never going to be perfect but I’m learning how to make a new life in Southeast Ohio where there aren’t many who knew what kind of journey my life took after leaving my home in Meigs County.

I now continue my legacy of service by working as a public servant for the federal government. I find that my experiences from my transition and with my disabling conditions allow me to be a better listener to those going through significant life changing events. I’ll never stop being passionate about helping others to be their very best possible selves, just like I did with my troops."

MARY MILLER

MARY MILLER

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

CAROLYN NAGY

CAROLYN NAGY

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I was commissioned in the Army Reserve as a First Lieutenant in 1980 and joined the 350th Evacuation Hospital, Detachment 1, Toledo, Ohio. After being promoted to Major, I was appointed commander of the Detachment 1 and was responsible for unit readiness for deployment during Operation Desert Shield. Upon deployment to Saudi Arabia, I served as the Assistant Chief Nurse responsible for the daily operation of the 400 bed hospital. I also served on the team that tackled the complex task of designing the hospital and living accommodations for the unit. For my service in Operation Desert Shield/Storm, I received the following: Army Commendation Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal and a Letter of Commendation Desert Storm.

As a registered nurse, I resumed practice in the areas of management, education, cardiology, emergency room and trauma. Following retirement from acute care practice I developed the Practical Nurse Program at Stautzenberger College and served as its Director until retiring in July 2015.

Since retirement, my focus has been on women veteran issues as well as serving as the Coordinator of the Women Veterans Initiative Toledo, Ohio. I currently serve on the Ohio Veterans Advisory Committee for Women Veterans."

JENNA NOBLE

JENNA NOBLE

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I was a music teacher for five years until I experienced some life changes and began looking for a position that would train me while they paid me to learn the job. I chose the Army and the Army chose me and so it was off to Alabama and the Women Officers’ Orientation Course and the Women’s Army Corps and eventually the Adjutant General Corps.

I wanted to learn a new skill, but initially the Army needed me to be the Director of the US Army Soldiers Chorus in Heidelberg, West Germany. After 18 months as the Director, I began my career in Personnel and Administration. In Korea, I was selected to represent the Pacific Theater in the newly re-instituted Army Soldiers Show where I became the Officer in Charge as well as a performer.

After the Army Soldiers Show and being selected as the Commander of the Transition Point in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, I trained in System Automation and began my career in Information Management where I successfully coordinated a Milestone 3 decision after 20 years of previous program manager attempts.

I have received multiple awards including the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Award, five Army Meritorious Service Medals, two Army Commendations Medals and three Overseas Service Medals.

After retirement from the Army and two years as a government contractor, I returned to the Department of Defense as a civil servant. I retired in 2012, moved back to Toledo, Ohio in 2015 and have continued to support my community through volunteering with local charities and church related community support activities.

Supporting my community - whether by teaching, through uniformed service, civil service or volunteering to help those less fortunate has been my passion."

TAMARA O'DONNELL

TAMARA O'DONNELL

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

"I joined the Air Force in January 1993 after graduating from Ovid-Elsie High School. Initially, I joined for my college tuition; but I fell in love with my service at Basic Training. I joined as Desert Storm/Shield transitioned to Operation New Dawn.
I remember the day we transitioned from BDUs to Blues. Our military training instructors brought us into a room and played the Lee Greenwood remix of “God Bless America” followed by the National Anthem. My heart soared and I knew I was hooked…a lifer. What was meant to be four years turned into 24 years!

Throughout my career, I served as a medical laboratory technician, section commander, readiness officer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s protocol officer, and culminated with command of the 422 Air Base Squadron at RAF Croughton, England.

It was a glorious ride that I shared with three amazing children who are my greatest joys and achievements in life!
Today, I’m blessed to support the Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance & Special Operations Forces mission as a contractor at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. It’s a significant honor to be part of this team and amongst fellow veterans."

AUBREY PAGE

AUBREY PAGE

UNITED STATES NAVY VETERAN

"My mom was the first woman in my family to serve and because she served on a surface ship in the late 80s, we felt confident that my experience would be different. Starting in 2009, I served on two warships and was surprised at the barriers that I faced. All Surface Warfare Officers were treated poorly, but it was just that much worse for the women. I joined the Navy Reserves at the end of my obligation and became a Public Affairs Officer. That community has a lot more women and I felt truly respected for what I brought to the Navy for the first time in my career. Because of this new-found dignity, I volunteered to go to Afghanistan in 2018 to coordinate media embeds for the country. I plan to retire.

Transitioning out of the service, I have struggled to find a part of the civilian community where I feel value. I have been a foster parent since 2016, which led me to a career of advocating for a disability that affects many of my kids. My strong-will that I honed in the Navy is now getting me in front of the right people to make real change."

STACIE ANN KAWECKI PARSONS

STACIE ANN KAWECKI PARSONS

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

KARI PFEIFER

KARI PFEIFER

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

MARIANNE PLUMMER

MARIANNE PLUMMER

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I was Active Duty Army from 1985-1989. I went to Ft. Jackson for basic and Ft. Gordon for AIT. I was a Station Technical Controller (Signal) assigned to Ft. Huachuca, AZ. While there, I did a four month rotation in Honduras. In 1989, I left active duty and joined an Infantry Reserve unit; six months later as I missed the camaraderie. In 1991, our unit was activated to Ft. Benning in support of Desert Storm. I reclassed and picked up two admin MOS’s. I transferred to a Military Police unit in 1999 and reclassed again to become a Military Police Officer. In January 2002, our unit was put on alert to deploy to Afghanistan. We left in June and went to Ft. Dix and then on to Bagram AB. In 2009, I was cross-leveled to a unit in St. Louis and deployed to Basrah, Iraq. In 2011, I made the decision to retire.

Currently I work at the VA Medical Center in the Post 9-11 clinic. I have been active with numerous veterans organizations, but most active with the VFW. My military and time with the various veterans organizations reinforce what a wonderful decision I made all those years ago to join the military."

PLUMMER MOTHER & DAUGHTER

PLUMMER MOTHER DAUGHTER

ELVA POUNDERS

ELVA POUNDERS

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS VETERAN

"I wanted to join the service since I was in high school in Akron, Ohio. My dad said no daughter of his is going into the service. I moved to Florida and I still had the desire to join but being under 21 years of age, I had to have parents’ consent. My dad eventually signed the form and I enlisted in the Marine Corps in Jacksonville, Florida on 10 May 1960.

At the time, the enlistment strength was at the lowest point for Women Marines. I was fortunate to know many of the WWII and Korean Women Marines. I learned a lot about leadership from these women. Rank was not fast during these years but I did okay and when Vietnam started, rank just exploded.

Oversea billets opened for women and I went to Japan where I made several trips into Vietnam. Young women troops were going to the Far East and many problems came about. Sexual abuse and PTSD which still haunt them today. I did make 1st Sgt and did a lot of counseling with both men and women.

After my retirement, I really did not want to join any organizations. Ohio Department of Veteran Services Women's Advisory Committee asked me to join and I am now an Emeritus Member. I had the privilege of being on the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame Selection Committee. There are so many great women veterans in Ohio and we need to find them.
Once a Marine, always a Marine. I am here to serve."

DEBORAH RIDENOUR

DEBORAH RIDENOUR

UNITED STATES NAVY VETERAN

"I’m a Middletown, Ohio native who served in the Navy from 1983-2003. As an Aviation Electrician’s Mate & during my 20 years’ service, I had duty assignments across the globe. There were some incredible leaders, worked with amazing people & traveled to over 22 different countries. I earned several military awards, to include Navy Commendation Medals (3), Navy Achievement Medals (6), Navy Meritorious Unit Commendations (3), and the Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist (EAWS) Wings as well as privileged to serve as acting Command Master Chief on my final tour.

As a woman in the Navy, almost 40 years ago, commands saw very few female Maintenance Aviation Technicians. Unfortunately, this made my tours very challenging & I endured a myriad of sexual harassment experiences. I worked endlessly trying to change that for those who followed me. Since retirement, I’ve had multiple surgeries, dealt with a host of medical issues, like thousands of other Gulf War veterans.

I initially had some trouble getting proper care & benefits through the VA. I believe it’s progressed, but still needs improvements. I feel that the sacrifices so many women have made for our country should be valued more & celebrated as well. Thank you."

LATISHA RILEY

LATISHA RILEY

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

DANA ROBINSON-STREET

DANA ROBINSON-STREET

UNITED STATES NAVY VETERAN

"I joined the Navy at age 19 and spent the next 25 years and 9 months serving on active duty as enlisted sailor and commissioned Naval Officer. Having served in a myriad of assignments, I had the pleasure of living in many foreign countries, serving on board the USS Samuel Gompers and traveling to the Gulf during Desert Storm. As a Radioman, I established communications for vessels on land, underwater, at sea and in the air. As a Naval Officer, I provided medical care to Department of Defense staff members, Active Duty Service Members and military dependents.

Having spent the majority of my formative years on active duty, transitioning from military service was challenging for me. Like me, throughout this country, a large number of veterans were facing disparities that were derogatorily affecting their lives. I was heartbroken as I researched the large number of suicides, unemployment and homelessness that we faced after leaving the military. Therefore, I invested my time becoming a recognized subject matter expert on the challenges veterans faced when transitioning from military service back into civilian life.

Since retiring, I continue to serve in the capacity of a civilian medical provider and community service advocate. My motto is 'All Things Veterans, We Served - We Deserve.' As a civilian primary care provider, urgent care provider and community service advocate, I treat patients and conduct research on the rapidly expanding challenges of America’s Opioid Crisis.
My mission is to enable veterans to obtain equal opportunities to flourish in their post-military lives. I lobby on Capitol Hill annually in support of veteran causes and I volunteer as a mentor to assist veterans facing incarceration."

ERICA ROSE

ERICA ROSE

UNITED STATES ARMY

"I was the Special Victim Counsel for ARCENT in the Middle East from 2014 to 2015, when the SVC program first rolled out. I represented 22 victims of sexual assault; 21 of whom were women. I had clients all over the ARCENT area of operation. It is my personal opinion that there was little justice for the majority of my clients.

I was very disheartened after my deployment and I was ready to get out. Then in 2017, I was given the opportunity to work as a judge advocate at NORAD/Northcom in Colorado Springs, Colorado. My experience there completely refreshed my attitude toward the military.

I am still serving in the Ohio Army National Guard as the Command Judge Advocate for the 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. I love my unit and I intend to remain in the Army until retirement."

SINDIE SECOSKY

SINDIE SECOSKY

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"I graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2001 as an Aviation Officer and served eight years in the Army. I spent my first 18 months in flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, where I became a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot. My first duty station was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky with the 101st Airborne Division, and where I deployed to Iraq for the first time in support of OIF from 2003 to 2004. I spent the last half of my career at Fort Riley, Kansas with the 1st Infantry Division, and where I deployed the second time to Iraq in support of OIF from 2007 to 2008.

I transitioned out of the Army in July 2009 and began my civilian career in Human Resources working for Target (distribution), then for Aramark (Uniform Services), and currently I work as a Human Resource Director for RWI Logistics.

I am a member of the West Point Society of Greater Cincinnati. For the past seven years, I’ve helped facilitate the high school small groups for our annual Leadership and Ethics Seminar. In 2017, I shared my military story on stage (and forever-captured on YouTube) as part of a Veteran’s Reflections series hosted by the Tristate Veterans Community Alliance (TVCA) in an effort to honor veterans and bring awareness to mental illness associated with combat service."

HANNAH SMITH

HANNAH SMITH

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

JESSICA SMITH-PLUMMER

JESSICA SMITH-PLUMMER

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"Growing up I remember watching my mom shine her boots, starch her uniform, and braid her hair. As I signed those papers, I thought of the strong and brave woman my mom has always been, and the heroes I grew up around.

It can be really difficult serving as women, in many different aspects. But I see so many women who have, and continue to, pave the way for a different future of what it means to serve in the military as a woman.

While serving, I was able to train in military intelligence as well as an Arabic course. Serving opened up so many doors for me, and gave me the opportunity to get my MBA. Before becoming a mom, I was a corporate recruiter for a government contracting company. Nowadays I take care of my very energetic, silly three-year-old son. As he grows, I will continue to teach him about all the heroes who have and continue to serve (like his beautiful birth momma and grandma), those heroes we have lost like our beloved SGT Faith Hinkley who was KIA OIF on August 7, 2010, and the sacrifices that were made with their service.
Thank you!"

ANA TAPIA

ANA TAPIA

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

KIM TAPIA

KIM TAPIA

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

TAPIA SISTERS

TAPIA SISTERS

APPHIA RAJAY TAYLOR

APPHIA RAJAY TAYLOR

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

"I joined the Air Force as a cadet at the US Air Force Academy in 2000. I’ll never forget sitting in my cadet room watching the second plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Before that moment, being in the military didn’t really seem like much of a lifestyle change or sacrifice to me. However, that sober moment made my choice to serve real. Being a sophomore, I had not yet hit my active duty service commitment, so I could have left USAFA and never served. In fact, I had struggled with choosing to remain a cadet during my entire freshman year. On that day, I realized that my choice to train as a US Air Force officer mattered. I was going to graduate into the world’s greatest Air Force and be empowered to protect the US Constitution and the country and people I love.

I will always be grateful for my time as an Airman. I am thankful to the Air Force for shaping me into the woman I am today. My leadership and followership skills, my passion, my dedication to the mission are all sharply honed from the invaluable training the US Air Force gave me. More importantly, I am grateful for the relationships I made while serving. I have not met any leader in my civilian life who cares about me to the extent that my Air Force leaders cared. My closest friends are still those that I made during Basic, or who I deployed with. My most fond memories are often those that I made on Active Duty or with those who I served. I am an infinitely better human and citizen as a result of my time in the Air Force and I am grateful that somewhere inside me I felt, and submitted to, the call to serve."

DENISE THACKRAH

DENISE THACKRAH

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

"I began my USAF career in 1980 and ended it in 1991. My first duty station was of course, Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas where I completed Basic Training. Then I went on to Kessler AFB, Biloxy, Mississippi to complete Electronic and INS/Doppler schools.

I was then transferred to Castle AFB in Merced, California where I worked on B-52's and KC-135's. I was in the Strategic Airlift Command (SAC) and loved every minute! There I injured my back and had to retrain. I became a Training Manager, working at various levels including squadron, maintenance and headquarters.

I went on to be stationed at McChord AFB, Tacoma, WA; Wheeler AFB, Waipahu, HI; Hickam AFB, Honolulu, HI; back to Wheeler AFB to be a PME Instructor, then to my last duty station, Altus AFB, Altus, OK. During my time at these bases I served in various commands including ATC, COMM, HQ PACAF, MAC, and SAC.
I wasn't invisible then and I'm not invisible now!!

Since getting out, the injuries I incurred while on active duty have worsened to the point that I am now 100% service-connected disabled with the VA. I have chronic pain in my neck, low back, and down both legs into my feet, which pretty much determines the type of day I will have.

As you can imagine I have worked with and seen lots of change, both good and bad, in the VA system and in the U.S. military. I have to say though that I am very happy with both, my doctor and the level of care I am currently receiving from the VA."

TERESA MCCARTY THEOHARES

TERESA MCCARTY THEOHARES

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"My personal journey into the military started at 17 years old, the summer before my senior year in high school. In coming from a military family with a grandfather being in the Navy-WW II and multiple uncles being in all branches, I went to the local recruiter’s office on my own and found out about their educational benefits. At that time options were limited for women in the military, so I chose combat medic and my parents agreed and signed for me since I was only 17 years old.

My plan was to enlist in the Ohio Army National Guard, leave for basic training after graduation and be back from training in time to start college fall of 1988. I left for Basic Training at Ft. McClellan, Alabama the day after I graduated from high school and while I didn’t get back from AIT to start college in the fall, I did return to start winter quarter.

I completed seven years in the Ohio Army National Guard and graduated from Ohio University and then Ohio State University and credit my military experiences for my professional choice to be a social worker. I now work at the Columbus VA as the Transition and Care Management Program Manager. My program helps all transitioning veterans access care at the VA."

JESSICA FARRELL TREVITHICK

JESSICA FARRELL TREVITHICK

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS & ARMY VETERAN

"As a high school senior, 9-11 shifted my career focus and subsequently I enlisted in the Marine Corps. I later joined the Army and did multiple overseas tours, from South Korea to Hawaii to Iraq.

My dual service and job as an ammunition specialist taught me knowledge is power over the growing gender divide. Females in my day were only allowed in support roles but my knowledge proved invaluable in many situations. From getting a whole brigade 'combat' ready, overseeing munitions transactions at the national training center to later deploying and maintaining a munitions stronghold in Iraq, being female always made me visible.

After being deployed as a female you’re often overlooked upon coming home. How the war changes you as a female is sometimes very different than our male counterparts. I find females reserved, but still want a career, still want a family, and more often than not we want more for ourselves as women. I want to help women see that there is more for them after being deployed and/or trauma. I want women to know living a full life is possible after leaving the service.
I am female. I am not invisible and neither are you."

MELANIE VEAL

MELANIE VEAL

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN

"The first female in my family to enlist in the military, I was off to basic training just 17 days after my senior graduation. Basic training was conducted at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas and I am probably one of the few who thoroughly enjoyed it because I was able to meet a wonderful group of ladies I will always remember and we were Honor Flight – W036!

During basic training I recorded the fastest time for a female to complete the obstacle course. Technical training was conducted at Lowry AFB, Colorado. While stationed at Lowry AFB I competed with a group of women from the base in a flag football tournament where I scored four touchdowns to lead our team to a championship. After my technical training I received orders for Okinawa, Japan. This was the furthest I had ever traveled despite the many places I was privileged to see as a child.

Unfortunately it was during my long oversees duty tour in Okinawa that I experienced a sexual harassment that would affect me for the rest of my life but I would gladly do it all again. From Okinawa, I went to Cannon AB, Clovis, New Mexico which would be the last of my assignments due to the mental anguish as a result of my tour in Okinawa.

Today I am a proud mother of a daughter and two sons, stepmother of two sons, grandmother, sister, daughter, aunt, niece, friend, veteran. I volunteer at a local hospice center, serve on the Forest Park Civil Service Commission and am a member of Quinn Chapel AME Church. I am also the daughter of an Army veteran whose flag I hold proudly."

JO WILDMAN

U.S. NAVY & COAST GUARD VETERAN

"I enlisted in the Navy’s Delayed Entry Program for guaranteed Fire Control Technician School in 1982. I held a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education, but Officer Candidate School was not an option. Having met their quota, the Navy had closed Officer Candidate School to women. In 1983, while in training, the Fire Control Technician rating closed to women. However, women in the rating were permitted to remain to the end of their enlistment. My enlistment and time as an instructor for the Phalanx Close-In Weapon System came to an end in 1989.

In 1989, I enlisted in the Coast Guard continuing to serve as a Fire Control Technician. I became the Coast Guard’s first woman in the rating to advance to E7 and then the Coast Guard’s first woman to receive a commission as a Chief Warrant Officer in the Weapon Specialty.

I retired in 2012 following 30 years of active duty.

My life has come full circle. In addition to advocating for women veterans, I have returned to my musical roots. I perform with area community bands and orchestras and volunteer with the music program within my hometown school system."

LAURA WILLIAMSON

JO WILDMAN

UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN

"My childhood dream was to join the military as a nurse. Although my family said there was no use for women in the military; I enlisted in the Army in 1993 with only six months left to college graduation.

I was a mechanic stationed in Kitzingen, Germany with the 147th. I didn’t know the difference between a Phillips head and a flathead. The first time they asked me to get Phillips, I ran to find a soldier named Phillips! I got in trouble for not finding one!

Not long into my career, I was one of a few hundred soldiers assigned to a classified special duty mission. Over the years, medically, I could only say my diagnosis was multiple sclerosis. Finally, last year it was declassified and today, my medical records show I was exposed to biological-chemical warfare and radiation. As the last survivor of the classified operation, I want to honor the memory of my fellow soldiers and their families. We never stepped into a declared combat zone but we served our country with the packs on our backs and boots on the ground.

We are here. We are proud. We are not invisible."