Chicago, January 24, 2013
Female military service members and veterans face varied challenges when they return from active duty, like their male counterparts, but especially when it comes to issues of unemployment, homelessness and sexual traumas. As the Pentagon announced yesterday its decision to formally open up combat positions to women, representatives from Dixon Center and it’s partner Easter Seals commend the policy move and express urgency about the unique needs women veterans face upon returning home from military service.
“For our nation, formally recognizing the fact women have been and are serving valiantly in combat roles for the past 11 years is appropriate,” says Kimberly Mitchell, Deputy Director, Dixon Center. “I do look forward to the bold policy steps that will be taken recognizing the unique needs of all our service members regarding post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, military sexual trauma and the military's proactive steps which previously have been reactive.”
Women are far more likely than men to have experienced a military sexual trauma. Women also make up the fastest growing population of homeless individuals today – and they’re not alone; increasingly they bring their children with them.
Mitchell’s 17 years of service in the U.S. Navy included a commission as a Surface Warfare Officer, service aboard several surface Navy combat warships, and multiple shore tours in Washington, D.C. This evening, Mitchell will be participating in a panel discussion, “Change and Challenges – Women in Today’s Military,” at the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago, offering her insight and perspective.
“As a Navy veteran, I know women have been serving side by side their male counterparts for years. This is a watershed moment for our country and recognizes all of our service members’ capabilities, valor and achievements,” adds Mitchell. “Opening combat roles to females should not be lauded as a bold step but rather a normal progression towards equality. The military's mix of gender, races, creed, lifestyles, and backgrounds makes it a bellwether of society. This decision should not be used as an opportunity for demagoguery, but rather a chance to acknowledge our military's ability to fight and win our nations’ wars.”
With this decision, Mitchell along with Dixon Center and Easter Seals urge policymakers to collaborate with the myriad of resources in the civic and private sector, as well as support and dedicate resources to all military service members, veterans, their families and the families of our fallen when they return home from their deployments and where they live. Today’s service members – women and men alike – are making significant contributions to their communities but some face challenges during transition and reintegration. These challenges include physical wounds as well as isolation, exasperating emotional and psychological wounds. They face unemployment, families that are not always intact, and communities unable to meet their immediate and long-term needs.
“We need to consolidate local efforts in communities and find synergies for the delivery of services or to services. We as a society need to focus on enabling their potential, and not create more cookie cutter solutions. This is our mission at Dixon Center,” concludes Mitchell.
Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services is a national clearinghouse launched in 2012. The Center is a catalyst for the consolidation of the disparate efforts underway since 9/11 that provide services to veterans, military service members, and their families. We use a holistic approach that focuses on three areas: education, employment and access to healthcare. We endorse and disseminate practical, community-based solutions that maximize private and public dollars. Services include disseminating relevant information; convening meetings of corporate, philanthropic, nonprofit and military and veteran leaders; and advising funders on investments that facilitate real and lasting success in civilian, family and community life.
Dixon Center provides leadership to a nationwide network of support – consisting of tens of thousands of organizations - for the delivery of services, or to services. Its team is led by Executive Director David W. Sutherland, Colonel US-Army, Retired. Easter Seals is Dixon Center's 501(c) 3 sponsor and is also one of its myriad partners that provide support and direct services to veterans and military families. Easter Seals is supporting Dixon Center to emerge and deliver on its bold mission. Dixon Center’s work will not be done until veterans and our military families can thrive; where they live. Learn more at www.theDixonCenter.org.
Easter Seals has provided direct services to the military community since World War II. In 2005, recognizing the new and unmet needs of so many returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the organization renewed its commitment to military families and veterans by establishing a Military and Veterans Initiative to address serious gaps in service and mobilize its national community-based provider network. Today, Easter Seals serves thousands of military families across its 73 affiliates, 550 nationwide service sites, 24,000 professional staff and 40,000 local volunteers.
Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. For more than 90 years, we have been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play. Visit www.easterseals.com.