Association of Women Veterans helps spread awareness of abuse in the armed services

By Craig Henderson
Student Life Editor

On Saturday, Nov. 1, the City of Dearborn Heights’ Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 78 hosted the Female Veteran Stand Down event. The purpose of this occasion is to help women obtain resources.

Veteran services from volunteering, employment, therapy, and health benefits were available to women who were single mothers and have had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many of these services offered had their own tables with registration for all veterans who needed it. The Association for Women Veterans (AOWV), associated with the University of Michigan – Dearborn, was one of the services.

Abigail Hartge, President of AOWV, says, “Our involvement is to show how we can improve lives not only in the community, but within college life as well.”

Hartge continued with saying that when veterans come home from overseas and want an education, they will not only look for what college is best for their career field, but also which college offers more benefits to its student veterans.

Treasurer of AOWV Tanya Erickson says, “This is an excellent opportunity to be involved with other women like myself.”

Moreover, while being a veteran and a student, Hartge said, “It allowed me to grow as a leader.” She believes that student success, not only for veterans but nonveterans as well, can exist if an individual joins an organization that he or she understands. Thus, they will make connection and network.

“I understand veterans because I am a veteran, and I can build from that,” she continued.

The first Stand Down helped 100 female veterans, second helped 60 veterans, and this year’s helped 140. The purpose of the Stand Down is to spread awareness about the benefits female veterans have available to them.

The event also featured two speakers. One of the speakers was Jennifer Spaulding who suffered a traumatic experience while serving her country. Spaulding shares she was one of 3,129 who was victimized, and only 276 of them were brought to justice.

“It is so great to see all of us come together. It is a strive that most try to sweep under the rug,” Spaulding says. “It is very hard to find help to some people because they do not want to step forward. Every one of us has a voice; don’t let that be taken away.”

The second speaker was Vanessa Owens Warren who worked as a flight nurse during Desert Storm. She left as a second Lt. and, after 10 years, returned as a Captain. “Working in Desert Storm was the best experience of my life,” she says. Warren works as a registered nurse for the Detroit Veteran Affairs Health System.

Along with the keynote speakers, Debbie Dingle made an appearance to show her support for female veterans. She said, “When the women are coming back from combat, going back to school, and getting their degrees are important and exciting, and we need to make sure we are giving them the support they need.”

Catering for the event were women who are also veterans and also had a son or daughter who served as well. Belonging to American Legion Auxiliary Unit 32 is chief cook Kim Welden, along with co-cook U.S Navy veteran Claudia Barber-Martin, and their associates Linda Roman, Ethel Putula, Ann Fenner and Department President of Gold Star Mothers, Carol Johnson.

Gold Star Mothers is an organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in combat.

A raffle was featured as well which included a flat screen television, two Detroit Piston tickets, and over a dozen gift baskets.