Last September, something quietly happened in our area that was not preceded by any big gala, covered in the society pages of our local newspapers, or really had any sort of hoopla connected to it at all. There were no grant monies garnered for it and certainly none of the big named corporations came forward to volunteer to sponsor this event. And by the opening day, there were still no anonymous donors who had mailed in donations to make this “great event” happen. But what did happen; here in our own bustling and robust Sarasota community, was that a group of female veterans stepped up and took action themselves. They decided that they needed to have their own issues addressed and their concerns shared with other female veterans, and rightfully so. And so they quietly made it all happen…But will they have to do this again, on their own this year? Or will you help them flourish?
At this point, you may be asking yourselves what action did these female veterans take and what happened here locally that you possibly missed out on last year.
Last September, “fifteen elite women warriors” came together to share 4 days and 3 nights of intense retreat activities. Some people may not even know what a retreat is or what the purpose of it is: A “retreat” is….www.femaleveteransunite.com and it denotes a much different definition than that of a “conference”.
The reason why this retreat was so very rewarding, for all of those in attendance, was that the fifteen female veteran participants ranged in ages from 29 – 92. We all know that whenever you have a wide age span, in a group of women, you will also have a variety of interesting life experiences that accompanies age. And that was certainly the case during this retreat.
Our Women Warriors offered each other many suggestions that they found helpful in dealing with their own day to day activities; specifically noting what has worked for them and what has ultimately created distress in their lives. All of the ladies enjoyed the group interaction, yet everyone expressed their thoughts and feelings with the utmost respect for each other.
So why is this article being written almost 8 months after the first retreat? Because our community needs to know that our 2nd Annual Female Veteran’s Retreat will happen this year on September 10th through September 13th, at the Day Spring Retreat Center in Parrish. And this year, we are all hoping that it will not happen quite “as quietly” as it did last year.
WHY? Because Goodwill/Manasota has come on board as the “Platinum Circle Sponsors” and they are very dedicated to helping our veterans to succeed in our communities. Our sincerest thanks go out to C.J. Bannister, Heather Hopewell, Mr. Bob Rosinsky, and all of his staff, for coming on board to assist us in making this another successful retreat. But Goodwill was not the only community organization that reached out to us and wanted to get involved with our female veterans. We are also privileged to have on board, our very own Southwest Blue Star Mothers, Chapter FL4 and Susan Chandler-Caruso as part of our retreat’s planning committee. Who better than mothers; who bore our veterans and then nurtured their minds, bodies and souls, would understand what makes their own sons and/or daughters tick? These are our role models (mothers) who have filled each veteran’s hearts with enough “ love & patriotism” to make them want to take an oath to serve this Country.
Who, but mothers; would know the real trials and tribulations that their child (a military veteran) faces on a daily basis? These dear women have committed to being our “Gold Circle Sponsors.” They know how very overwhelming the transitioning process can be for a veteran, (moving from military life back into the civilian world), and they are making themselves available to help us out in any way that they can.
We are hoping that you too will show your support for the well being of our Women Warriors…Please take this opportunity to sponsor a female veteran or to make a donation to support this retreat. The cost to sponsor one female veteran is $400.00, but any amount of money will be gladly accepted, to include marketing merchandise to be placed in each one of the ladies’ tote bags. The $400.00 fee covers all of the retreat costs, per veteran, for this wonderful 4 day and 3 night event.
The Home Depot store, on Cattleman Road, will have their Assistant Support Department Supervisor, (female veteran Ms. Patty Maybray) hosting another “project night” for the women. Ms. Maybray will supervise and instruct the veterans with a DIY project that is worked on simultaneously while the women engage in group discussion on a specific topic. At the completion of this session, each veteran will get to take home a beautifully completed project, compliments of Home Depot.
Dr. Marguerite Barnett (Owner of the Mandala Med Spa, a local reconstructive surgeon, and herself a female veteran) will facilitate a segment of the retreat on “self-esteem” and then she will demonstrate and teach the ladies a form of powerful self-expression through dance!
The Committee knows that it has made a great difference in the lives of the 15 female veterans who attended last year’s retreat, and hopefully it will do the same for 25 more women warriors this year.
Georgie Alfano-Cronk (Retreat Coordinator) and Rebecca Ludwick (Retired Army Lt.) says that “There is a great degree of confidentiality that must be maintained during the course of our retreat activities, but the ladies are allowing us to share with you the comments that they provided us with on their final surveys. The comments ranged from, “I felt very special because I actually took ME time in order to address just MY needs”. “I cannot believe that there are other women who went through the exact same stuff as I did”. “I have been living in a hell for over 20 years and the VA just doesn’t seem to have the proper staff to deal with my problems”. “No woman should have to have her body abused and violated in order to serve her country or anywhere else”. And the less emotionally charged comments were… “It gave me time to get away from the daily routines of life”. “I loved the comradery of my sisters”. “We need to make this retreat a National one for women veterans”. “Can we do this more frequently”?
When our military female veterans speak out, we need to ask each one of you; who is really listening to them? Who would (or should) care more about a female veteran than another female veteran? And that is why we, (the Sarasota County Women’s Veteran Committee), decided that; FEMALE VETERANS NEED TO HAVE THEIR VOICES HEARD TOO and that is exactly what we advocate for our Women Warriors to do! Speak out and feel no shame!
During our retreat time, we will spend countless hours together in a group setting, supporting each other as we discuss topics such as: military sexual trauma (MST), traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress (PTS), how does one navigate the VA health care system, where can jobs be found, how important is furthering one’s education, how does one acquire balance in their lives, how to manage anger and depression, and how to have more healthy relationships.
One of the platforms that we utilize for many of our discussions is provided to us by NO MORE.ORG. If you are not aware of this wonderful organization, please check them out. Our military veterans have gotten on board with them to say, “We will tolerate No More sexual assaults. No More domestic violence.
So during those three days in September (the 10-13th), please remember to pray (or to just think) of our women warriors. Our mission is to continue to flourish in our civilian lives. We want to grow ever more confident and remain focused enough so that we may continue to be devoted parents, caregivers, lovers and friends. But we would also like to stress, that whenever you see a couple at a military function, please “do not assume” that it was the man who took the oath to serve his Country. Ask the woman, “By any chance, did you serve in the military”? And don’t be surprised when she answers, “Yes, I did”.
Donations are now being accepted for this retreat. Please send your check to: Goodwill – Manasota, P.O. Box 5403, Sarasota, FL 34277-5403 and every donation is tax deductible. There is also a Go Fund Me page for donations at: http://www.gofundme.com/female-vet-retreat. The Women’s Veteran Committee may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or concerns. And to be considered for this 2nd Annual Female Veteran Retreat, please go to our website: www.femaleveteransunite.com, fill out an application and mail it back into us prior to July 31st.
Thank you and God bless our veterans who have sacrificed so very much for our country.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ms. Georgie Alfano-Cronk is the Chairwoman of the Women’s Veteran Committee for the Sarasota County Veterans Commission. She was Sarasota County’s 2010 Female Veteran of the Year and is an advocate for ALL of our female veterans. Georgie will also be one of 4 veterans who will be honored at the JFCS Tribute Luncheon for Military Veterans on May 29th, 2015, at Michael’s On East.