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Schenectady Forum To Focus On Women Veterans


According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, New York is home to more than 65,000 women veterans. A community forum scheduled for tonight in Schenectady aims to bring the issues they face into focus.

The forum, hosted by Schenectady County Community College, is being held in recognition of Women’s History Month in conjunction with the college’s Student Veterans Office. College Vice President of Student Affairs Martha Asselin says the college is hoping to hear the stories from five women veterans.

“What can we do as a society, what can we do as a community, and what can we do as a college? To help bridge their transition back into civilian life, making it more conducive. Whether that be getting involved in education again, picking up where they left off, whether that be great neighbors and work in the community, what is it that we can do?”

Asselin said the audience will get the chance to ask questions as the panelists help shed light on how the role of women in the armed services has changed over the years.

“We’ve made a lot of leaps and bounds. We’ve covered a lot of territory. We have other places where we still have some areas that we need to go, but we’ve really come a long way.”

The panel will include veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and previous conflicts.

One panelist is retired army veteran Penny Deere. Deere, who served in the Gulf War, said she began her 20-year career after enlisting in the then-active Women’s Army Corps after she graduated from high school in 1975.

Deere says she hopes attendees will get a “fresh perspective” on women vets. She says she thinks women veterans are somewhat “invisible” to many.

“I think it’s important to get to know women veterans and what type of people we are and where we come from. I think there’s often misconceptions or no conceptions at all.”

Deere also wants to communicate with her fellow servicewomen returning from duty. She says she wants to educate vets about unique services available to them to help with physical or mental health issues.

“For instance, I literally just came from acupuncture today that the VA provides for me.”

The discussion will be moderated by Capital Region Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who serves on the Assembly’s Veterans Affairs Committee and is a retired Army reservist.

Santabarbara said he’s interested in hearing about any new issues facing women veterans that may be able to be addressed by state government.

“And maybe some of the ongoing issues we’ve been trying to solve as well. And then, of course, I want to hear their advice to other females that are considering joining the military. What would you have done differently? What advice would give people who are looking to join the army or whatever branch of service they decide?”

The event will be held Friday, March 25th, 2016 at 6 p.m. in Stockade Building Room 101 on the SCCC campus, 78 Washington Ave., Schenectady.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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