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A Commitment To Support Our Women Warriors
A participant in the Stand-To class discusses his work to support and empower women veterans, and how he's teaching his daughters about their service and sacrifice.
Since June of this year I have been participating in the Stand-to Veteran Leadership Program at the Bush Institute, representing the Foundation For Women Warriors. Our mission at the Foundation is to serve women veterans and their children, so that their next mission is clear and continues to impact the world. We do this because we know from experience how smart, strong, and resilient women veterans are, and how we can all benefit from their unique contributions.
My role at the Foundation For Women Warriors is that of an Ambassador, responsible for spreading the word about our organization, our mission, and our exceptional clients. The Stand-To program has provided exactly the platform needed to carry out those responsibilities. Participation includes monthly travel with the class as we hear from an incredible array of servant and thought leaders around the country, who all work to improve veteran outcomes. It is an experience unlike any other and one that affords unparalleled access to people who help us amplify our impact.
Representing the unique needs of women veterans among the leaders we have engaged with is a privilege, and one my family has shared in every step of the way. From their roles in my introduction video to the cohort, to posing for pictures all around California with the coveted “PT” belt, they are all in to help me spread the word about women veterans. They listen to stories of my experiences, and stand by patiently when I share them with anyone curious enough to ask about the Veteran Leadership Program. They hold down the fort when I’m gone, and help me reintegrate into our family dynamic when I return. All of this though, requires a commitment to our shared belief in the value of advocating for women veterans, and it has meant sacrificing a portion of our life together.
Explaining that sacrifice to 8 and 10 year-olds is a front row seat to life experience as they learn what commitment means, and how to recover from its cost. When we talk about our time apart and why it happens, it’s always okay to feel our feelings, tears included. Learning to process those feelings is an important part of becoming resilient, and feeling empowered when you come out the other side. As parents, it’s our hope that our family’s shared commitment to women veterans and their children imparts that sense of empowerment, because my girls are the children of a woman veteran too.
These lessons of commitment, sacrifice, and recovery are nothing new to our country’s growing population of women veterans, like they are to my daughters. But, when it comes to our society’s understanding of the vital contributions of women in the military, the message isn’t getting across. There are approximately 2 million women veterans in the United States, whose time in uniform spans all war and peacetime cohorts, a full 10% of the veteran population! A little over 360,000 women currently serve on active duty, and one of them is my niece, who maintains Navy fighter jets. She and other women comprise 17% of our entire military force.
Despite their growing representation in the active duty military, many of the women veterans I engage with have experienced a bias towards recognition of men as veterans. This is in addition to the many veteran programs and service organizations that still lack components tailored to the unique needs of women. Some of those needs are obvious, like women’s healthcare, and some disproportionately affect women veterans like childcare, housing, and under employment.
The kind of commitment that is required to defend our country is universally respected and honored. As citizens who benefit from that commitment, it is time we restore equity to that honor for our Women Warriors. I encourage you to join my family in committing to support our women veterans and their children by contacting your local veteran support organization and inquiring about opportunities in their women veterans programs. By doing so you honor their service to this country, and you empower their future.
Kevin Walton is a member of the inaugural Stand-To Veteran Leadership class and currently a Systems Engineer at Boeing, where he provides technical oversight and management for system product verification. During his participation with Stand-To, Kevin will support women veterans and their children with short-term, high-impact relief in order to navigate life’s obstacles and make successful life transitions.