Ohio conference focuses on female veterans' shared experiences
By HOLLY ZACHARIAH | The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio | Published: August 10, 2017
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Jennifer Baun has learned that she shouldn't ask a woman if she is a veteran. She asks, instead, if she served in the armed forces.
The first question often brings a dismissive wave of the hand, a shrug, a response of maybe, "Well, I spent a year or two ..." The second one brings a "Yes." That seems a subtle difference to most, but it is not insignificant. And it hurts Baun's heart a little.
"We have 67,000 women veterans in Ohio and it can be difficult to get them to come forward for the benefits they deserve," said Baun, who served in the Navy from 1985 to 1991. "When we get together, there's a sense of belonging, a sense that you are with others who shared your experiences."
That's one reason Baun, who is the Ohio director for the Military Women Across the Nation organization, plans to be a part of Saturday's Ohio Women Veterans Conference hosted by the state Department of Veterans Services at the Ohio Union on Ohio State University's campus.
The day-long conference, first hosted in 2006, is among the largest of its kind in the nation, with more than 500 women already registered. It is free and women can still register on site beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The sessions include discussions on how to translate military skills to the civilian world, finding meaningful volunteer opportunities, networking, managing finances and wellness and aging. There is also a session on restorative yoga and meditation. Betty Mosely Brown, the associate director of the national VA Center for Women Veterans, is the keynote speaker.
History shows that the 1980 U.S. Census was the first time women were asked about their military service and of those who answered yes, few were connected to VA services. It was only after that census that Congress granted veteran status to those who had served in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) during World War II.
Claudia Foss spent 20 years with the Air Force and retired as a lieutenant colonel. She co-chairs the state veterans department's Women Advisory Committee.
She said a women-only conference allows discussion and recognition of the trail-blazers.
"From World War II to today, there is a different perspective that we come across in this group of women veterans," Foss said. "We embrace the sisterhood among women veterans and we lift each other up."