Thank you for finding your way to Shield Sisters! In the time of the Vikings, women served next to the men. They were called Shield Maidens; and it was no different for them than the men. The military men of this country have always had women serving next to them in some capacity. We have just begun as a country to acknowledge the service women in the military have truly given. We have just begun to really honor our Shield Sisters as being as capable as their Brothers in Arms.

Shield Sisters was birthed from the frustration that very few of the Veterans Groups had women vets in the highest ranks in their leadership. Its not like Women Veterans haven’t existed until recently! There have been women trailblazing in the military since the Civil War. Where were they? Why weren’t they in executive position in some of the Veteran groups who also happen to be incredibly powerful lobbying advocates for Veterans?

With the amount of women in the military and ultimately using the VA healthcare system at the VA CBOCs and Hospitals, the low numbers of women in executive leadership positions within the Veterans Groups is stunning, and frankly, disappointing. Only women veterans can advocate for women veterans; and only women veterans can understand what is important for women veterans. The Vet Groups have done a decent job thus far, but if they’d been effective, we wouldn’t be discussing Women Veterans Health as we are now, all the issues would have already been figured out and there would Women’s Clinics everywhere. If the Vet Groups had been effective, we wouldn’t just now have women veterans figuring out there were Vet Centers and the resources we could get at the local one. If the Vet Groups had been effective, we wouldn’t be stunned by the numbers of MST cases of both genders – we would have already been working our soldiers, airmen/women, and sailors from the experiences that broke them down and then didn’t build them back up to be whole members of a civilian society.

We have to talk about this stuff, and we have to advocate for both sexes, wholeheartedly, not just because we can’t ignore it; but because we all served and we all were Shield Siblings.

Shield Sisters is an attempt to provide resources, advocacy, news and events to women veterans by women veterans. While I don’t presume to know everything there is to know or understand all the issues and challenges each individual woman has had after leaving the military, I believe there is core information that doesn’t get filtered down to us unless we are actively looking for it.

The Shield Sisters mission is to ensure as much information as possible is available for women veterans to navigate “the system” and get the help and assistance they may need.

Leadership Demographics for Veterans Groups:

Wounded Warriors: 2 women Executive Staff: Communications Executive VP President; and Strategy and innovation executive VP

IAVA: One woman on the board, and she’s not even a veteran – but has experience coming up with housing solutions for homeless adults…really? And, she’s the treasurer for the board and probably not in charge of their homeless outreach. Staff-wise though, they have a ton of women on the staff, but not one woman is a veteran, and a great deal of the guys are veterans. Now, there is a stunning amount of experience on the staff and board…but not one of them know what its like to be a woman in a foxhole, or a ship, or a convey or whatever.

DAV: The DAV Executive Committee 2014-2015 has three out of thirty are women, possibly four if Rolly is a woman. On the Board of Directors, if Rolly is a man, then there are no women on the Board at all.

That said, they have a great women veterans page that is laid out in a pretty cut and dry way with a relevant study that was done by women. I don’t see a date on the study, but within the study content, there’s a quote from a woman veteran from 2014 which says:

“Everyone assumes that my husband is the veteran and he never served in the military.”

“I feel invisible.” – Participant from the DAV Women Veterans Focus Group August 11, 2014

…which by the way is exactly my point.

VFW: No women in leadership – However, if you download the photo for the 2014 Council of Administration Group you will find one woman (out of 63 people) in the front.

Paralyzed Veterans of America: Leaders – 1 woman out of 11 leaders

National Association of American Veterans: First, there’s over 60 years combined active military and federal government experience. AND 2 out of six women on the Board/Directors and Executive Team; and out of 22 staff and advisory members, 15 are women and some of them are veterans.

AMVETS National Officers: 1 out of 7 is a woman
National District Commanders: 2 out of 6 districts is woman. On the national roster, there are the same 18 women’s names throughout all 39 pages, and then there’s the Women Veteran Committee with 13 women.