Veterans face many challenges when they leave the military, said Desiree Marquez, a Marine Corps veteran and Columbia Basin College student.
They struggle with health care access, finding a career and getting help for other issues related to their service, she said.
“We get out of the military and we’ve changed,” she said.
But most of the help available to veterans is geared toward men, Marquez said.
Female veterans have problems developing friendships with women who don’t share their experiences but veterans groups often have few, if any, female members.
And there are some challenges female veterans deal with alone, such as sexual assault and trauma.
Marquez and other college veterans said they hope to draw female veterans to a free veterans symposium for women May 9 on the Pasco campus.
The event could begin to break down some of the walls that have kept Tri-City area women who served in the military from getting help, talking about their issues and becoming part of their own community, organizers said.
“This might be one more way to tap into the community,” said Jason Schlegel, the college’s director of veteran services.
The symposium will have three speakers giving presentations on transitioning to civilian life, community, networking and military sexual trauma, or MST, organizers said.
About 80 percent of female veterans suffer from MST, Marquez said.
College officials said it’s been difficult to reach out to female veterans. That leaves these women in the dark when it comes to accessing services and resources.
Marquez said it wasn’t until she had racked up $7,000 in medical debt that she learned she was eligble for veteran medical benefits.
“I just met a female veteran recently,” she added. “She had no idea she could be on (benefits).”
Organizers expect the event to be small, maybe only drawing about 75 people. But this could be the first step toward a bigger regional event that would serve hundreds of female veterans living in the Mid-Columbia.
And while it’s geared toward women, Marquez said they won’t turn anyone away who wants to learn about what’s available to those who have served their country.
Female veterans symposium When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. May 9 Cost: Free Where: Columbia Basin College, Gjerde Center, 2600 N. 20th Ave., Pasco. Details: Presentations and other information on resources for female veterans and on issues such as transitioning to civilian life, dealing with military sexual trauma and finding a community. Door prizes, refreshments and appetizers will be provided.