The number of women who are currently serving in the military is growing each year, according to Arlene Callahan, one of the organizers of Women Supporting Women Veterans, but the services and benefits that these veteran soldiers are capable of receiving are going unused due to lack of information and education.
Currently in Livingston County, there are 609 female veterans, with 2000 in Washtnaw and 3000 in Oakland counties.
“There are many women veterans who don’t understand whether or not they’re eligible for services since the VA has typically been a good old boys club,” Callahan said. “And that’s because as late as 1998 only 4 percent of the military were women. Right now it’s over 14 percent, so the number has grown.”
This Saturday, Callahan’s group is sponsoring an event aimed at helping female veterans learn about services that are offered and will provide connections for the attendees that are meant to help them transition and improve their quality of life.
Several workshops will run throughout the day including a mental health and justice outreach program and a discussion on eligibility, benefits and Cleary University programs.
Also being discussed will be the issue of homelessness among the veteran population, which Callahan says is a problem due to mental issues that some soldiers face as they return home after serving.
Women returning home after serving are experiencing the same types of mental stress other issues as their male counterparts, according to Callahan as well as other issues specifically related to women.
“If you look at women veterans as a group, they have suffered the same mental stress that the men do, especially those in active duty,” she said. “In addition to that, they have also suffered what they call MST, which is Mental Sexual Trauma. And that’s because so many of them have been raped and many of those rapes go unreported because of the rapist being a senior officer.”
Due to their lack of knowledge of programs and services, Callahan says that many of these women are trying to deal with their problems on their own with no support.
“So, because of that, in many cases, they are unable to get and hold a job, to support them and quite often their children,” Callahan said. “No money, no job, they’re homeless.”
Callahand says that there are currently no programs in Michigan to help homeless women veterans, especially ones with children, so many of these former soldiers are living in cars with their kids.
“These women have served our country and now they’re suffering and there’s no need for them to suffer,” Callahan said. “And all these people involved (with the event) want to eliminate that suffering, which is at least what they deserve.
The luncheon speaker will be retired General Carol Ann Facone who is the one who originally gave Callahan and her organizers the idea for the event.
“She said, what they need is education and they need to be made aware of what they have offered, what they can take advantage of,” Callahan said.
The event takes place at the Hartland Educational Support Service Center and registration begins at 9 am. Childcare will be provided for children 3 and older.