TACOMA — For many women in the military, life isn’t easy. And Casey Larkin and Heather Miles, who each served two tours in Iraq in support roles in Balad, know this firsthand.
But what Miles didn’t expect was how tough life would be when she got out.
“I was homeless. I didn’t have a family or a husband anymore, so I went straight from Iraq to trying to find a job,” she said.
While they served our country, at first these women said they didn’t feel like vets.
“Sometimes I feel like our job was miniscule. I was there, but I wasn’t doing anything heroic,” Larkin said.
Denise Fajardo served in the Navy and her husband is a Marine.
“Me and my husband were talking when I got out and he said, ‘You’re not a veteran.’ I was like, ‘Why not?’ He said it was because I didn’t serve in combat,” Fajardo said.
Retired Col. Mary Forbes wants females who have served our country to understand that anyone who served in the Armed Forces, regardless of their role, is a veteran and deserving of services.
On Saturday, the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs is hosting the 2013 Washington Women Veterans Summit at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, offering help with housing, jobs and counseling services.
“I’m trying to get folks to be empowered, and to really know they can get access and fight for a lot of resources out there,” Forbes said.
Over time, Miles, Larkin and Fajardo have learned to embrace their identities both inside and outside of the military. Each of them has either gone back to school or found employment through the VA. And now they want to help other female vets understand that their role in the military was important and that they deserve help once they are discharged.
“Everybody feels lost and isolated, regardless of your military service. The veteran community is there to support you and wants to hear your voice,” Miles said.
The conference runs Saturday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and is free to all female vets. There will also be free massages, pedicures and a fashion show. Click here to register.