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Nonprofit Brings Attention To Women Veterans On This Memorial Day
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / May 25, 2020
The Southern California-based nonprofit Foundation for Women Warriors wants to bring attention to female veterans on this Memorial Day.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Memorial day is a time to honor and remember veterans, what usually comes to mind is the war weary soldier, the guy who defended this country on foreign battlefields. A man applauded on this day by a grateful nation. But what about the many women who served and are serving and all branches of the U S military. Our next guest is dedicated to honoring and helping women veterans. Jody Grenier is CEO of the nonprofit foundation for women warriors. Welcome to midday edition.
Speaker 2: 00:27 Thank you so much for having me.
Speaker 1: 00:29 Well, Jody, you want people to not forget about women who lost their lives protecting this country. Talk to me about that.
Speaker 2: 00:34 You know, women for as long as we have existed in this country have served in many capacities, our war efforts. And over the years, uh, women have grown to serve an increasing numbers in the military. And that also means our sacrifice, uh, has also increased. There's a number of women who have been killed in action, uh, during the last two decades of conflicts that we've been participating in. And so it is ever so important to honor all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but also give special recognition to the women who haven't injured and sacrifice for our freedom.
Speaker 1: 01:18 Now tell me a bit about one such woman, Shannon Kent.
Speaker 2: 01:21 Yes. So you know, as we look back on history in terms of women who have served, we don't have too many role models or pictures of women as warriors. I think everyone can identify Rosie the Riveter and the world war two effort. Uh, but today Shannon Kent is the symbol and the epitome of a warrior. Shannon served as a cryptologist in the us Navy. She served side by side with Navy seals and special operations and her service played a pivotal role in the effectiveness and performance of joint special operations task force. Uh, it also led to the broader implementation of women and every specialty that the military offers. Unfortunately, Shannon Kent was killed in action on a mission in Syria in 2019. Her sacrifice and her service is an example to everyone, uh, of what it means to be a quiet professional. Shannon did what was debated and long, uh, argued about in terms of the capabilities of women. She did it quietly and really forged the opportunities that women have in the service today.
Speaker 1: 02:39 And I understand Shannon left behind a husband and two young children.
Speaker 2: 02:43 She did.
Speaker 1: 02:44 And talk to me about the mission of your nonprofit, the foundation for women warriors. What does your organization do?
Speaker 2: 02:50 So we honor the service of women veterans like we do today, honoring the service and sacrifice of women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. But we also provide services to ensure that our women that exit the service are able to enhance their economic wellbeing. And we do that a number of ways. We provide emergency financial assistance, childcare assistance, and then also women focused professional development. And can you give us an example of a woman veterans whose needs you were able to address? Absolutely. So Rebecca Ortega served in the United States Marine Corps. She deployed to Afghanistan. She came home, uh, served honorably, exited the service as a single parent and went on to pursue a bachelor's degree while she was finishing up her last semester. She needed additional childcare assistance and was really at a crossroads as to whether she should delay her graduation and work more hours so that she can afford her childcare or reach out to us.
Speaker 2: 03:56 I will tell you that you know, being independent, self-sufficient folks in the military asking for help can sometimes seem more of a task than going to war for your country. She reached out to us and we were able to provide her with childcare assistance and then she went on to graduate with honors from Cal state San Marcos. Today, Rebecca lives on the East coast. She was employed or received a job through the department of transportation as a government employee all while working on her master's in public health, which has ever so timely given a coven 19 hopefully she will be on the front lines protecting us and solving the issues that we're seeing today. Tell us about your own military service. I served in the Marine Corps from 2000 to 2005. I joined right after high school and I was an intelligence analyst. So I was stationed at camp Pendleton during nine 11.
Speaker 2: 04:53 That quickly became the day, uh, or a pivot point in my own professional history that I knew nothing were, would be the same. And I wasn't wrong. Shortly after I was a part of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 moving from Kuwait up to Baghdad. And then I redeployed again in 2004 to 2005 in Ramadi and Fallujah, Iraq. I was part of the first Marine division under general Mattis. I'm really, my job at that time was to fuse all different sources of information intelligence into a picture to provide unit commanders with an assessment to allow them to mitigate their troops from threats. A very critical role at the young age of 2021 and 22 getting out of the service, uh, immediately after my second deployment, uh, was a bit challenging. There weren't as many resources as there are today for veterans that are transitioning out. And there was especially nothing focused on women. So I found myself met with a bit of frustration and you know, bias as to whether I served in the same capacity or had the same effectiveness as my male counterparts. Um, I, uh, you know, I, I luckily then went to college and found myself back in the intelligence community, but I do often reflect upon my service and that initial transition when we're providing, you know, our programs to our women veterans
Speaker 1: 06:30 and your organization helps to meet that need for others. The, uh, you were referencing bias against the thought that women had actually served and uh, and getting women together and, and uh, following their service, which seems that there's a lot of organizations for men, but not so many for women.
Speaker 2: 06:47 Correct. We're the only organization in Southern California and I would go as far as saying we're the only organization in the country doing exactly what we do. We absolutely appreciate the service of every veteran. However, we intimately know that women have historically been underserved and that there's a number of issues that compound the complexity of being a woman that transitions out of the military. And so, uh, we really try to hone in on what we do best and that's meeting the needs of our women veterans.
Speaker 1: 07:24 Now, how has the COBIT 19 pandemic shifted the focus of what the foundation for women warriors is doing?
Speaker 2: 07:30 Right. So we've operated in a hybrid between an office and remote work, so that hasn't necessarily impacted our operations. I will tell you what has impacted us is the shift in the needs of our women veterans, those who were once stable and living successful lives, uh, that we helped, uh, through some obstacles. Some of them are now in the situations where their financial futures are very uncertain. We historically had, uh, eligibility requirements where you either had to be employed or in school in order to receive our assistance or agree to work with a partner agency to attain a job. We have shifted our eligibility because we know finding work right now is difficult. Uh, also if you've been laid off and, uh, there's a delay in unemployment, you're working hard to meet that gap. And then you also have additional issues with women who are single parents and they served in San Diego. They love San Diego, and they didn't necessarily want to go back. So they're here as single parents without any family nearby, which is just adds to the complexity of the issues that they're facing. So, um, providing them with emergency stipends for rent, utilities, insurance, uh, that's really what we're, we're doing to be impactful in this moment.
Speaker 1: 08:58 I've been speaking with Jody Grenier, CEO of the nonprofit foundation for women warriors. Thanks, Jody.
Speaker 2: 09:03 Thank you so much.