MUSKEGON, Mich. — This Veterans Day, FOX 17 talked with local female veterans about what they call “invisible wounds” and how many of them found healing through an organization called WINC.
Heidi Zellar served this country for 14 years.
“I served in Germany from 1986 to 1991, so I got to see some history before, during and after the fall of the wall, the communism, and then I got out of the active duty after Desert Storm and served eight years at a trans company here in Muskegon,” Zellar explained to FOX 17.
Karen Johnson-Cole served for 23 years with both the Army National Guard and the Airforce.
They served and sacrificed, but struggle when it comes to recognition and respect.
“Pulling into a Lowe’s parking spot that says ‘veterans only’ and getting called out. ‘That ain’t you. You ain’t a veteran. Why are you parking in your husband’s spot?’ Or another one is you go into a store that offers military discounts and I’ll be standing there and they make me pull out my military ID, my veteran ID, and then the next guy next to me, as a guy, and they say, ‘Are you a veteran?’ and then all they have to do is say yes, and they don’t have to show any type of identity.”
“We fought the same wars that the gentlemen did, so why not get the equal respect? Or notoriety?”
They say the scars aren’t always from the battlefield.
“A lot of us deal with military sexual trauma, sexual harassment,” Zellar explained.
From trauma on and off the battlefield to having to prove their worth, they found healing through an organization called Women Injured in Combat, or WINC.
“It just really became my sisterhood. It’s given me a sense of empowerment, of being around women veterans that have experienced same things as me, and you know what, we pretty much all, we can walk into a room and just give each other a nod. We all know where we came from,” Zellar added.
WINC offers “Wine Down Wednesdays,” vision board parties, group therapy sessions and yearly retreats that allow women who fought for our country to share stories that are often left untold and support each other through a special sisterhood.
“We pay attention to our veterans because we don’t ever want them to feel that they need to take their life because you have self-worth. We want them to know they’re worthy. We want them to know they’re loved. We want them to know that there’s more to life,” Sequita Jackson, a WINC board member, explained.
There are nearly two million female veterans in the United States, according to the Department of Labor. That’s compared to almost 15 million male veterans.
For more information about WINC, click here.