I am a U.S. Air Force veteran who honorably served her country for more than 25 years and is now proud to be an active member of our veteran community here in the greater Manchester area. Since joining, I've noted a lack of women participating in our many activities, a shortfall I believe needs to be corrected for the continued benefit of our community. My experience has taught me that women bring a different perspective to issues and the various veterans organizations.
Upon my return home to the Manchester area after many years in our Air Force, I discovered that I missed the camaraderie of others with shared experiences, something my local friends and family could not relate to. After some research, I ultimately joined the American Legion Manchester Sweeney Post #2 (now non-smoking) because I found that it is the most recognized in the state and is highly involved in improving conditions for our local veterans. Most importantly, they welcomed me from the very beginning and have always treated me as a peer. It is irrelevant to them that I am a woman.
It has proven a wise choice for me, as I've made many new friends and they have guided me in how to help fellow vets not as fortunate as myself.
Unfortunately, our woman veteran membership at the Sweeney Post, and for that matter at veterans organizations throughout the nation, is pitifully low. I have been asked by our veteran leadership to initiate a recruiting campaign to change that.
In speaking to various women, I've learned that many believe veterans organizations are just "good old boys" clubs. While this may be true to some degree, I must note the same was said of the military when I joined in 1979. But we sure changed that over time, didn't we?
Today, women are fully integrated into our military, and now thanks to many of us, even in traditional combat specialties. I ask you to do for our local veterans organizations what you did for our military. We can make a difference again. Our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan (I served in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011) need our help. Once again we need to stand and be counted.
If you are not a woman veteran but know one, please pass on this request. Better yet, if not a veteran, please join one of the veteran support groups that exist at all American Legion and VFW posts. With cutbacks across all government agencies to include the Veterans Administration, our returning vets need our support now more than ever.
To begin, I recommend you just do what I did and stop by at least one of our veterans organizations to check it out and then join up. Or I welcome you to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Sweeney Post at 623-9145 and leave a message. I will personally introduce you around.
God bless America.
Gail M. Prince of Bedford is a retired Air Force colonel.