“Women veterans are increasing in numbers for military service and will continue to do so….”
Annually the Sarasota County Veterans Commission (SCVC) recognizes the Veteran of the Year, Woman Veteran of the Year and Auxiliary Person of the Year. In 2010, the Female Veteran of the Year Award went to Ms. Georgie Alfano-Cronk.
Far too often, when someone receives an award they tend to quietly return home and place their award on a shelf to just collect dust. But not so with Alfano-Cronk. Alfano-Cronk is a U.S. Army disabled woman veteran.
Alfano-Cronk states, “We have many ‘women warriors’ that need our recognition and assistance in transitioning back into their communities or back into the work force”. Alfano-Cronk has become a passionate advocate for America’s women veterans.
Alfano-Crock notes, “No matter where our female veterans are in their lives; whenever they need help navigating the VA system or just need an ear to listen to one of their concerns, they dial my phone number. As a former police officer and retired New York State Correction Sergeant I can easily look at a veteran’s life and view their problems without passing judgment on them.” She knows how hard the road of life can be because she herself has been there and done that.
By 2011, she had convinced the SCVC that a special committee should be named and formed to assist woman veterans after military service. She was nominated for and became the Chairwoman of this newly formed committee.
Fast forward from November 2011 to the present when Alfano-Crock discovered a not-for-profit organization, which loves veterans and their families as much as she does, and partnered with them. This organization is the Professionals Assisting Military Families & Friends (PAMFF). Working together the SCVC and PAMFF decided to have a free retreat for America’s women warriors. The retreat allows women wounded warriors a safe environment to share their transitional concerns and receive free counseling and access to support groups after the retreat is over.
Then there was that little problem of fundraising for the retreat.
SCVC and PAMFF knew early on that they wanted to make this a totally free event. The PAMFF committees, without any major contacts or knowledge of grants or fundraising, began to solicit donations from veterans’ organizations and community members. But would that be enough financial support? As the applications starting rolling in from women veterans across America, the PAMFF selection committee, decided that none of the women veterans should be turned away and so the original number of 10 applicants allowed to participate in the event increased to 15 women veterans. There is still a waiting list and applications are no longer being accepted.
The reaction from women veterans clearly shows a need to support, recognize, and help them as much as there is for their male counterparts.
Alfano-Crock notes that since women veterans were trained to be strong and independent, like their male counterparts, that often a women veteran will not ask for help until she is in a full blown, major crisis. And often they do not know where to find the proper resources to help them or to move ahead. Women veterans have a tendency to fall through the cracks of an already saturated VA health care system.
Alfano-Crock is adamant that female veteran’s needs are “totally different” than the needs of our male veterans and wounded warriors.
Women naturally process life’s ups and downs differently than men do and need a different type of an environment to vent and must have a trust system in place with a counselor prior to sharing their personal stories and unique concerns.
From Tuesday, September 16th to Friday, September 19th, 2014 fifteen “woman warriors” will share their lives with each other, and with PAMFF’s licensed clinicians and female community volunteers and form “battle buddy relationships” that will hopefully blossom and grow. “After all,” says Alfano-Crock, “the most therapeutic sharing sessions are those that are done in a nurturing environment with other veterans present who have gone through the same sequence of events and realize the type of traumas that often accompany military life and war. No one understands a veteran better than another veteran who has ‘walked the walk’.”
Event Title: “A Season of Change – You Can!” 1st Annual Retreat for Female Veterans.
What: Topics for discussion will be: MST, TBI, PTS, Balance in One’s Life, Heeding the Red Flags, Interviewing and Job Hunting Techniques, Meditation, Resources, and many more.
When: September 16th – 19th
Where: Christian Retreat Conference Center in Bradenton, FL
EDITORS NOTE: Applications are closed for this retreat. For any additional questions or information you may contact Georgie Alfano-Cronk at (941) 266-2769 or PAMFF at (941) 224-1094. PAMFF still needs financial assistance to keep the retreat free for the 15 attendees. PAMFF must secure approximately $400.00 per person in donations. If you wish you may send a donation to PAMFF, P.O. Box 2171, Sarasota, FL 34230. The featured image is of Ladda Tammy Duckworth an American woman wounded warrior and politician who has been the U.S. Representative for Illinois’s 8th congressional district since 2013.