Meeting The Needs Of Women Warriors
The transition from military to civilian life can be one of many challenges. The Foundation for Women Warriors is an organization that helps meet the unique needs of thousands of female veterans. This year, the foundation is celebrating 100 years of service to women. On March 20, the 17th anniversary of the Iraq war, KPBS Anchor Maya Trabulsi talked with the foundation’s CEO, Jodie Grenier.
Q: March 20, I'm sure you remember this date, the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It's a really important time to talk about the experiences, individual experiences of our troops, you being one of them serving in the Marine Corps for five years. You were only 19 years old. Tell us about what that experience was for you as a woman in the military.
A: I was an intelligence analyst. My job was to collect information on where enemy threats were and brief unit commanders. At 19, 20 years old that was quite a significant job that I had. I was one of maybe 3 women on a team of over 300 Marines. So, I think my experience as a woman at that time, you know, reflecting back on, I can see some differences, but at the time I was a Marine and had a job to do.
Q: And then after five years of serving in the Marine Corps, you left. What was it like in terms of feeling supported as now a veteran, as a woman veteran?
A: So, I left the Marine Corps in 2005 after I did two deployments and I found myself back home in Connecticut. And at that time, there weren't the resources that we now have today for our veterans. And so I kind of just had to navigate the transition on my own. I was met initially by a lot of bias and a little bit of misogyny around me being a woman and had served, having curly hair, being petite. These are things that society wasn't quite ready to associate with a stereotypical veteran. And then, of course, me finding other women that have the same experiences as I did. I served with so few women in the military. I think at the time it was 5%. Now it's 9%. I didn't fall into a sisterhood.
Q: And is that the sisterhood that you feel that you wanted to create for female veterans?
A: Absolutely. And today, my role as CEO at Foundation for Women Warriors, we really focus on providing a cohesive support network for women veterans. A lot of that was born out of my own personal experience of not having that.
Q: What do you want people to know about the needs of women?
A: Women veterans are the fastest-growing segment of veterans, but they're also the fastest-growing segment of homeless veterans. You have women that are mothers. They're afraid to report themselves as being homeless because they're afraid to have their children removed from them. So, a lot of what our organization does is interjects, or meets these women’s other critical area of need, and provides either housing stipends, childcare, to keep them in work or in school, and then also workshops to enhance their employability.
Q: Without the Foundation For Women Warriors would these women still be forgotten and underserved?
A: We are the only organization in the country providing child care assistance. I think there's other organizations, but they don't solely focus on women's experience. And putting women in the same room as other women who have similar experiences.