While it is growing more and more common to see women among the ranks of each of the different military branches, they don’t always receive the same recognition as their male counterparts. The sixth annual She Served event, hosted Monday by the University of Wyoming Veteran Services Center, honored and highlighted stories of women in all forms of service, including veterans and women who have supported the armed forces.
Marty Martinez, retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer and current senior project coordinator for the VSC, said the event was important to him because a lot of people forget about women’s contribution as service members. He said had heard stories from female veterans who said their veteran status has been questioned or simply not acknowledged at all; for example, one female veteran told him a mechanic thought her dog tags in her car were her husband’s.
“I had the opportunity to serve with a lot of women — incredible, incredible soldiers — and I just wanted to make sure that they were honored by what they had done as well as any male,” Martinez said.
Principal organizer of the event and VSC staff member, Letty Vega said she wanted to make the experience interactive for the people who attend the event, not just a lecture or long speech.
Tables were set up around the Family Ballroom of the Wyoming Union so people could read stories, read testimonies and look at photos of female veterans as well as mothers, daughters, wives and other family members of veterans and active-duty military.
Vega said it was important for the event to highlight the families and other support groups as well as the service members. As a daughter to a veteran herself, she said she wanted to bring awareness to the sacrifices and service military families do as support systems “behind the scenes.”
“It’s really hard to deal with that on the home front, too,” Vega said. “Without your support, what’s the point? Especially when you’re a few thousand miles away from home.”
Martinez said his support system was crucial as he was deployed, helping keep things stable at home so he could focus on the mission at hand. However, he said it’s not lost on service members the different sacrifices and issues that can stem from having a family member deployed.
He added he thinks the She Served event is the only event he’s been to that highlights the service members’ families as well.
The event featured many different speakers, including U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jenniffer Teets. Teets spoke about the different struggles and triumphs as a military family with both her and her spouse as active members of the military. She detailed her different emotions and struggles as she was deployed, and then the contrasting emotions as she tried to keep things together on the home front with their horses, four kids and four dogs as her husband was deployed.
“It’s difficult being a military couple,” Teets said during her presentation. “They do their best to try to keep you together, but it’s not always a guarantee.”
Along with the stories about servicewomen and military families, there were informational tables as well. One featured the Valor run, where Pamela Torres is running from Cheyenne to Rawlins to commemorate the 161 female military lives lost since the war against terror started. There was also a raffle for the VSC’s emergency assistance fund, and tables set up to write letters to deployed Wyoming troops.
As more universities around the country are hosting She Served events, Martinez said it fits into the larger mission the VSC has each day.
“Just remembering those who served and gave so much, so many sacrifices, to ensure that we get to live how we want today and have the enjoyment of life as we do today in this country,” Martinez said, “I think that’s really important on this campus, that we never forget that.”