By Goldi Riyahi, Red Cross volunteer
Imagine enlisting in the military, going through the trauma of deploying and coming home to people who believe your experience was less significant than your male counterparts.
That’s what female veterans experience on a regular basis. And while resources and services exist and are provided for male veterans, less resources exist to support women who serve.
Fortunately, since February of this year, a new program has been launched with the goal of providing substantial support to female veterans living around the West LA VA campus.
“Our focus is to engage [female veterans] and provide resiliency–skill training, wellness programs, goal setting, financial literacy and other soft skills,” said Myra Valle, Director of Service to the Armed Forces & International Services for the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region, who filled me in on this amazing effort in collaboration with Ann Duson of the Women Veteran’s Unity Group.
“We also wanted to make their environment more personalized and as friendly as possible, so we brought them robes, slippers, feminine products, journals and snacks and food,” she said.
That was the initial step in the program. Myra and her team had planned to host workshops throughout March for these women to learn how to identify stressors and de-stress in healthy ways.
In light of COVID-19 and social distancing measures, those in-person workshops have been put on hold. However, the program continues, because all of the women recognize the importance of recovering. They want to be better for themselves and for society, Myra said.
Even before COVID-19 hit, many of these women faced challenges such as addiction and other traumas in the wake of their service.
“I can see it in their eyes that they want [to get better],” Myra said. “Yet what’s missing is somebody truly being there for them, which is the most crucial part of our program.”
In May, a celebration was held on Mother’s Day as many of these women are mothers.
“We had a discussion with Ann about how we could show them how much we are thankful for their service and for being mothers,” Myra said.
They delivered a Mother’s Day brunch and stayed at a safe distance, taking a moment to remind them that there are people that will be there for them no matter what, throughout their healing journeys.
Despite all the bad news we have heard these past months, here is one thing to smile about – a program that is making a difference in someone’s life.
If you or anyone you know have tablets to donate for the women to stay virtually in contact with their facilitator, please contact Myra Valle.