Despite comprising 17.8 percent of the armed forces, women continue to face obstacles both during their military service and after, and support systems have sometimes lagged.
This was something Beverly Groogan faced when she quickly transitioned from flight nurse to mom when returning home from deployment.
“I went from 100 mph to a stop. I was expected to be Mom again,” she said at the inaugural Women Warriors Celebration, held Tuesday night, Nov. 5 on MTSU campus.
Groogan was the keynote speaker at the event that was organized by AAUW-Murfreesboro branch to celebrate women veterans.
Event organizer L’Oreal Stephens said she was inspired to create the event in advance of Veterans Day after she learned about the needs of women veterans.
“We’re doing this to say ‘thank you for all you do,’” said L’Oreal Stephens, a co-organizer of the event and a lecturer in MTSU’s Department of Communication Studies.
The honorees are:
- Dr. Anita L. Herron, who served for 27 years in the U.S. Army, the last five as Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor at Antioch High School;
- Teresa Carter, an MTSU psychology/pre-medicine major who served in the U.S. Marine Corps;
- Tabatha Wadford, an MTSU anthropology major who served in the U.S. Army as an all-source intelligence analyst;
- Brittany Dinaso, a U.S. Army veteran who now is a practicing attorney in Murfreesboro;
- Beverly Henley, a U.S. Air Force veteran who was named her squadron’s Airman of the Year in 1978 and her group’s Airman of the Year in 1979; and
- Lesa Prime, who served 21 1/2 half years in the U.S. Air Force in security forces; her award will be accepted by Marcia F. Rambert.
Stephens said the honorees were saluted not only for their military service but also their continuing devotion to making life better for other people.
“These women are parents and students and spouses and employees and business owners, and they’re also giving back to their own communities after their military service,” Stephens said.
During her keynote, Groogan, who works as Women’s Health coordinator and Maternity Care coordinator at the Alvin C. York Veterans Administration Medical Center, spoke about “moments frozen in time.”
She recounted the patients who left an impression on her during her service as a flight nurse during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She told stories of success and failure, stories of miraculous recoveries and heart-wrenching losses on the battlefield.
“Our goal was to keep him alive until he could say goodbye,” she said about a mortally wounded officer.
Her career with the U.S. Air Force wasn’t easy. There weren’t the same reintegration or mental health support that returning military veterans get today.
She made the transition from battlefield medicine and back to her family many times from 2005-2013, spending one week to one month at a time deployed to war zones and escorting wounded soldiers from the battlefield to Germany and back stateside.
“It took me years to accept these stories as a part of my life and part of what makes me the person I am today,” Groogan said.
And even now the experiences of women veterans can differ greatly from their male counterparts, meaning their needs differ greatly too.
For many women warriors, they don’t know when and how to get the help they need.
Groogan said all they need to know is that she’s there for them at the York VA.
Women Warriors was co-sponsored by MTSU June Anderson Center for Women and Non-Traditional Students, the Hazel and MTSU Charlie Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, MTSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women, and MTSU Institutional Equity & Compliance.
Women Warriors was made possible through the generous donations of ABLE, Anna Jarvis, Hilton-Green Hills, Calla Lily Day Spa & Salon, Chicken Salad Chick, Debra Price, Denise Joscelyn, DET Distributors, Empire Distributors, Five Senses & Steakhouse 5, Kendra Scott, Kroger Floral Department, Members of AAUW-Murfreesboro, Murfreesboro Parks & Recreation, Painting with a Twist, Ryman Auditorium, Sam’s Club, Simply Pure Sweets, Slick Pig BBQ, Starbucks, Tangerine Salon and Spa, The Alley on Main, Three French Hens, Wal-Mart, and Wild Goose Chase Events.