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Editorial: In praise of underserved heroes

11/07/2017 11:17AM ● Published by Richard Gaw

Imagine in your mind's eye the soldier.
The soldier is thousands of miles from home, thousands of miles from bedtime stories told to a son or daughter, and faced with the thought of spending this Thanksgiving not around a table of loved ones but surrounded by fellow soldiers in a mess hall. Time travels slowly. The tour of duty is still months from conclusion, and there are many sleepless nights the soldier spends listening to an endless soundtrack of doubt. What is my purpose? Is my choice an honorable one? Did my decision spring from a sense of selflessness, or was it made recklessly? Am I remembered back home? Do these men I serve with look at me as an equal, or am I nothing to them but a weak link in the cause of our mission? I have a son and a daughter back home, and Skype and emails and letters will never be the same as the precious moments I get to hear them breathe when they sleep.
Imagine the sun rising over Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan. Imagine the soldier reaching for weaponry. Imagine the far-off popping sound of gunfire, and the muffled voices of commands coming from officers. Imagine at this moment the soldier's heart, bursting with fear and adrenalin, heading off to fight an invisible enemy, in a forgotten war.
Quietly, in a voice barely above a whisper, the soldier's mouth forms the words, 'Get me home. I want to be home.'
Now, imagine that the soldier is a woman.
From the founding of our nation, women have protected America's freedom, and the number of enlisted women in our nation's military -- as well as the number of women veterans -- continues to climb steadily. Currently, women make up nearly 12 percent of our military and ten percent of all veterans are women. Sadly, however, many women veterans who return to civilian life struggle to assimilate back into the communities they left behind. A high percentage of them suffer from military sexual trauma, a diagnosis that serves as the cause of drug addiction, alcoholism and homelessness, and while the military benefits are available to them, women veterans remain historically reluctant to use them.
There is hope for these women, however, and some of it is happening right here in Chester County.
The Mary E. Walker House in Coatesville, opened in 2005, is a 30-bed transitional residence for women veterans who have found themselves in difficult life situations and without a home. Currently one of the largest transitional residences in the country for women veterans, the Walker House and its staff offer a safe environment where women veterans can rebuild their lives, and do so in harmony with their peers. Since its beginning, the Walker House has provided pathways toward re-emergence for hundreds of women veterans.
The Coatesville VA Medical Center's Women's Health Program offers women veterans comprehensive primary and maternity care, and office-based gynecological services. Its POWER program offers residential treatment to eligible female Veterans with substance use disorders, mental health problems, and homelessness, and offers a wide variety of therapy groups, educational classes, and individual counseling.
As we celebrate this Veterans Day on Nov. 11, let us praise the women of our military who continue to sacrifice for our freedom, and follow up that praise with avenues of assistance.

To learn more about services for women veterans:

Mary E. Walker House
1400 Blackhorse Rd., Coatesville, Pa. 19320
Tel.: 610-380-0704

Women Veterans Alliance
www.womenveteransalliance.org

American Women Veterans
www.americanwomenveterans.org

Women Veterans Center
259 N Lawrence Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: (215) 923-2600 x 171 | Email: WVC@VMCenter.org




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