Last Tuesday, May 10th, the Illinois Joining Forces Women Veterans Working Group held their first annual conference at Camp Lincoln in Springfield. The day featured lectures, panel discussions, and more from subject matter experts as well as Women Veterans who shared their unique experiences serving.
Following a Military Culture 101 presentation from Meosha Thomas, Founder & CEO of One Savvy Veteran, the group heard about Post Traumatic Stress and Trauma in Women Veterans from Dr. John Mundt, Staff Psychologist at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Dr. Mundt shared his valuable perspective from over 30 years providing psychological services to veterans. Specifically, 3 of 5 female veterans have experienced assault while serving, and many others have experienced harassment and threats of sexual assault. These experiences of Military Sexual Trauma are more likely to lead to PTSD than combat trauma, and are crucially important issues for service providers to understand.
[caption id="attachment_1210" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Dr. Mundt speaks to participants about the unique experiences of post traumatic stress in female veterans.[/caption]
Dr. Mundt also highlighted some challenges that female veterans face while seeking services at the VA – namely, having a hard time receiving treatment in a heavily male VA, and facing sexual harassment from other veterans while at the VA. These challenges were later emphasized in a panel discussion on the importance of peer support for women veterans. The panel discussion featured Erica Jeffries, Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs; Marine Nelson, SSVF Team Leader at Thresholds; Meosha Thomas, Founder & CEO of One Savvy Veteran; Megan Everett, Director of Veterans’ Programs at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation; and Lisa Goodale, Vice President of Peer Services at Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Panelists agreed that peer support programs establish a built-in trust and rapport with someone who has shared experiences, and that such programs are a valuable aspect of psychological treatment options.
[caption id="attachment_1211" align="aligncenter" width="300"] During the panel discussion, Megan Everett noted that peer support offers the “ability to have a real open conversation with someone who has already walked the walk.”[/caption]
Additional afternoon breakout sessions focused on a wide variety of topics with respect to female veterans, including integrative medicine, culturally competent medical care, employment services, and homelessness and housing. The day also included time for networking with service providers across Illinois.
Last week’s conference was made possible by many of IJF’s valuable partners and member organizations, including the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, Health & Disability Advocates, Thresholds, Jesse Brown VA, and the Illinois National Guard. Thank you to everyone who made the inaugural She Served conference a success!
Written by Caitlin Hodes, IJF Program Analyst
Coming up to Chicago for the weekend? As an active duty service member, there is a lot to take advantage of in the city for free or a fraction of the normal price! And with warmer temperatures right around the corner, there is no better time to explore all that Chicago has to offer. Here are some of our suggestions for how to make the most of your time in the Windy City:
--> Check out the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, then make your way through Millennium Park (make sure to stop for a picture with the Bean!). If you’re feeling active, pick up a Divvy bike at one of their many stations surrounding the park and ride along the Lakefront path for stellar views of the skyline.
--> Visit any of Chicago’s amazing museums, many of which offer free admission to active duty service members. Our favorites are the Field Museum and Art Institute! You can see a full list of military discounts in Chicago here.
--> Head North to Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the nation’s oldest zoos housing 1200 animals – find detailed directions here.
--> Check out the view from Willis Tower Skydeck, which is free for active duty military who show their ID to the cashier.
--> Hungry? Grab a slice of Chicago’s infamous deep dish pizza at Giordano’s or Lou Malnati’s.
--> Have a late night laugh at Chicago’s historical improve club The Second City, where active duty military can receive a free ticket to any show! We recommend the nightly Mainstage Revue. See a full list of shows here.
--> Any last minute gifts or shopping you need to get done? Look no further than the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue! With tons of stores to choose from, it won’t be hard to find that perfect gift for a special someone. Be sure to check out this list of stores offering military discounts beforehand!
--> Browse the Tickets for Troops website to see if there are any sporting events going on while you’re in town. You could score free tickets to see the Blackhawks, White Sox, Cubs, Bears, and more!
--> In the early decades of the twentieth century, Chicago’s fast-growing industries brought the city a great deal of wealth, along with an abundance of jazz music. Catch a live performance at the historic Kingston Mines.
The map below highlights many of the attractions we mentioned, and may give you ideas for more activities should your schedule allow it. And if you do take any of these tips, be sure to tag us in your social media posts (@ILJoiningForces). We can’t wait to see what you do!
Written by Caitlin Hodes, IJF Program Analyst