On behalf of the Women’s Veteran Committee, I would like to thank everyone for their support over the last year, especially Commander Mic Aguirre. He made himself available at all times of the day to attend committee meetings, promoted the Women’s Veteran Committee Initiatives and was a great ear to bounce ideas off. It may not seem like a lot was done because we had a lot of behind-the-scenes things happening; but overall it was a very productive year with a great start to building a solid foundation for the Women Veterans Program for the DAV of Minnesota.
As some of you may know, we rolled out a T-shirt specifically for Women Veterans at Fall Conference in September 2022. The purpose of the Women’s Veteran T-shirt was to subtly remind everyone that Women are also Veterans and have served in the Military. More often than not, it is assumed that we are the spouse of a Veteran or part of the Auxiliary for Veteran organizations. I know, I have been guilty of it too at DAV events. We wanted to raise awareness of women’s service, so people stop assuming we are “supporting our Veteran spouse.” So far, we have ordered almost 400 T-shirts, South Dakota DAV is placing an order, Wisconsin and North Dakota DAV’s are interested and DAV of MN will also be placing another order. These shirts are sold at cost to the Veteran and have become extremely popular at many events I have them at! We also had a “Newsflash Women Serve Too” Banner made with the T-shirt orders. We have had about 6 of these ordered throughout Minnesota and more to order for several chapters.
In November we sent out a survey for Women Veterans to complete. This was dual purpose: 1. Find out what is lacking for Women Veterans in Minnesota, what barriers they face for attending events, what events they would be interested in attending and how they would like recognition and 2. Membership recruitment. The survey closed at the end of January, and we had 207 Veterans complete the survey, 170 of which were women. From these results, we were able to start brainstorming some ideas of what we would like in our Women Veterans Program.
At Mid-Winter Conference in Washington DC, all of the DAV of MN Women Veterans in attendance were able to connect with the members of the National Interim Women Veterans Committee. We were able to see the initiatives of the Committee on the National level and make some great connections and networking. We also met with Minnesota legislators and were able to voice concerns for Women Veteran in Minnesota, among other Veteran concerns overall.
The weekend of March 4th and 5th, I was invited to have a table at a Women Veterans Luncheon. It was a great opportunity to promote the banner and T-shirts, along with developing some great networks and making some great connections for Women Veterans. Also, National DAV set up an opportunity to recognize some Women Veterans at the Big 10 Championship Women’s Basketball Game. The Women Veterans were recognized on court for their service during the basketball game. It was a great experience for those who attended and we hope to continue the partnership next year with the Big 10 Basketball as it will be hosted in Minneapolis.
Finally, May 5-7, a select group of Women Veterans committed to seeing the development of the Women Veteran Program for the DAV of Minnesota met at Camp Bliss, MN for a strategic planning retreat. During this time, we analyzed the results and input from the survey, collaborated, brainstormed, and were able to come out with a skeleton foundation in which we are going to start building the Women Veterans Program. We have a tentative mission statement, vision statement, values, 6 categories of focus for the program and 7 goals we would like to start, if not achieve in the next year. We are already addressing ways to increase communication throughout the Women Veteran Community, as that was one of the biggest themes seen in the survey and comments.
In the next few months coming, Kati Carpenter and I will be drafting the Operational Guidelines for the Women Veterans Program for the DAV of Minnesota and coming up with items we need to consider in order to create a budget (not an actual budget at this point yet). With the help of our Director, John Carson, we will get everything ready and present it to the Executive Committee for final approval. I am excited to see this idea come into fruition in the next year (hopefully). I will do my best to do better in communicating updates regarding the Women Veterans Program. This last year was really busy and time just flew by!
Again, thank you all for your support of the Women Veterans Program and Committee. We really appreciate it! Continue to pass on the word about the program development and keep DAV of MN HQ involved/in the know of Women Veteran Events as you hear about them, along with Kati and me.
Have a great Summer and stay safe!
Women Veteran Committee Chair
Department Service Officer, DAV of Minnesota