Empowering woman veterans, celebrating the 'sheroes'
On Thursday, the Alaska Healthcare System held a celebration to honor Alaska women veterans. In the year 2000, the state of Alaska officially named November 9 of each year, Alaska Women Veterans Day.
For the past few years, the event was a short ceremony celebrating women who served in the armed forces as veterans, active duty, guards or reserves. This year, the Alaska VA Healthcare System wanted to do something more.
"This year, instead of a short ceremony, we made the celebration a half-day event," the Alaska Women Veterans Program Manager, Laura McKenzie said. "Along with our annual recognition ceremony, we added free seminars, a reception with refreshments and food, a veteran art display and for the first time ever, a women veterans only listening session with VA Director Dr. Tim Ballard."
The listening session gives the veterans a chance to talk about female problems that some people may not want to hear or that females are afraid to bring up with men around.
"To bring up issues that are important to them in a comfortable setting among their peers is a pretty big step," McKenzie said. "A lot of times, many women don't feel like they are heard or like they matter. This gives them a chance to voice what they need help within a comfortable setting."
The ceremony means a lot to veterans like, Renee Hayes, who says for so many years, women who served were scoffed at and made to feel like they were not important.
"People don't realize how much we gave up, some of us gave up our families," Air Force veteran Renee Hayes said. "To me, to know that people appreciate what we did, the time we spent and the efforts we put in to keep our country safe and our families safe, knowing that afterwards, we finally get some recognition for what we've done is just a great privilege and honor to me."