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Fla. congresswoman visits deployed mothers in Afghanistan

Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Fla.) visited to Afghanistan to meet with deployed mothers in uniform and Afghan women on May 5, 2016.

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By VALERIE GARMAN | The News Herald, Panama City, Fla. | Published: May 8, 2016

PANAMA CITY (Tribune News Service) — U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham kept a box of tissues handy during a recent trip to Afghanistan that put her face to face with deployed mothers in uniform.

“As a mom myself, I have to admit they had to get out the Kleenex box,” said Graham, a mother of three. “I know how hard it is to be away from your children.”

The Congresswoman joined three other female representatives on the bipartisan delegation trip last week to meet with military moms and discuss the many gender issues facing Afghan women.

“It shows the commitment that the women in Congress have to working with the women in Afghanistan,” Graham said of the trip, which has taken place for 10 years. “The reality is there is still a lot of work to do.”

The delegation held a Mother’s Day luncheon to talk about the challenges military women face on deployment and deliver Mother’s Day cards.

“By far for me the most moving part of my trip was to meet with members of our military who have left their children behind,” Graham said. “They are serving as an example to Afghanistan about the strength of women. That’s a very important message to send.”

During the trip, the four Congresswomen also met with the first lady of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani, and women serving in the Afghan Armed Forces.

Graham said one of the things the group is working toward is to provide women-only training facilities for female police officers. Because women joining the police force is often painted as a dishonor to the family, training alongside the opposite gender can be dangerous.

“Having separate facilities is a great step forward,” she said. “You’re able to be trained as a police officer ... and the honor of the family is not called into question.”

Other challenges facing the country come from an increasing presence from extremist terror groups, which Graham said have used Afghanistan as somewhat of a breeding ground.

“It is definitely a war zone; I recognized that the minute we arrived in Kabul,” she said. “Hopefully we can have a more direct impact in decreasing the extremist terror groups in Afghanistan and around our world.”

©2016 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)
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