As I reflect on Veterans Day 2018, I fondly remember my husband and I both proudly donning our hooded Army sweatshirts and heading out to enjoy a free lunch. As we entered the restaurant, my husband received countless, “thanks for your service,” “hey I served in the Army too,” “where were you stationed,”…I am sure you get the idea. For a brief moment, I stood by his side feeling overlooked and invisible. And if you know me, you know that did not last long!

Qwynn & daughter

Qwynn with her daughter in 2005

That day I took a stand and began researching and learning all I could on the history of women serving in the armed forces and the landscape of today’s women service members and Veterans. I even joined a group called Women in Military Veteran Research and truly found purpose. This summer, I took it a step further and decided to focus my dissertation on studying the lived experiences of women Veterans in the civilian workforce. Over the course of a year, what I have learned has changed my life, and it has allowed me to reestablish my pride in being a woman Veteran.

Shortly after Veterans Day 2018, I joined the SMVF TA Center team. Every day, I am honored and humbled to work with an amazing group of trailblazers. Many of us on the team are Veterans, and we find this work to be purposeful. Every Policy Academy and Implementation Academy we host reminds me of why the work we do is vital and valued and why we as Veterans of the SMVF TA Center choose to still serve. As we prepare to take on 28 Governor’s Challenge states, I know we will make a huge impact on the lives of Veterans, and there is no place I would rather be.

Women In Military Service for America Memorial

Women in Military Service for America Memorial

I take pride in being a woman and a Veteran, two identities that I will proudly continue to display. For Veterans Day 2019, I will wear a shirt that has a high heel and a combat boot, and it reads, “I served too.” I will also be hosting a Veterans Day event at my Church to celebrate our Veterans. What makes this event so special is it was spearheaded by my daughter. My daughter, who will be 10 on Veterans Day decided that we should celebrate our Veterans in our community. My heart melted when she insisted that she wanted to celebrate her birthday celebrating Veterans. I am overjoyed because she is learning early what it means to be of service and to serve.

This Veterans Day, as we pause to pay tribute to those who bear the burden of safeguarding our freedom, we must ensure that our gratitude is extended to all Veterans. To the many Veterans working to impact positive social change here at PRA, I offer my humble gratitude for your sacrifices and contributions to our nation. On this and every day, thank you.

Collage of photos of Qwynn and her husband in the Army