The female veteran population is the fastest-growing veteran demographic in the nation, but for many female veterans dedicated support networks are difficult to find. As of 2015, women make up 9.2% of the US veteran population.
From Homeless to Helping
Navy veteran Ginger Miller experienced the difficulty of transition to civilian life firsthand and decided to do something about it. Ginger founded the non-profit organization, Women Veterans Interactive, dedicated to providing female veterans with a place to call their own.
Inspired by her own struggles, Ginger saw a need for service to address the challenges women veterans face. Ginger founded Women Veterans Interactive to meet those needs.
It is more important than ever to support organizations like WVI. It is estimated that in the near future, our women veterans will make up almost 20 percent of the entire veteran community. Women veterans experience unique challenges and WVI works tirelessly to find ways to identify and address those challenges. Below is the transcript of Ginger’s interview with Hiring America, along with an interview with WVI members, Alia Collins & Jacqueline Owens, USAA’s JJ Montanaro, and Dwight Hunt of B3 Group, Inc.
The female veteran population is the fastest-growing veteran demographic in the nation, but for many female veterans, dedicated support networks are difficult to find. veteran ginger miller experiences often difficult transition firsthand and decided to do something about it. Founding the non-profit organization women veterans interactive dedicated to providing female veterans with a place to call their own.
My name is Ginger Miller. I am the president and CEO of the national nonprofit organization Women Veterans Interactive. I went into the Navy specifically to get the GI Bill so I can go to college. A lot of my dreams and aspirations of staying in the military for 20 years or longer kind of came to a screeching halt right at around maybe four years in, at which time I suffered from two horrific accidents and I ended up getting a medical discharge. I didn’t really know what I would do at that point and as a woman veteran, you know, I felt kind of lost. So, you know, I went back home to have a sense of comfort and to have some type of stability, but even throughout that time when my husband’s post-traumatic stress disorder kicked into high gear they basically told me, for lack of better words, you have to take your crazy husband and find someplace to go. Like a lot of veterans today, we ended up being homeless and that’s not something that should happen to anybody who goes into the military, but when you’re transitioning out if you don’t really know where to look for services, then it’s just like having no services at all. The only thing I could do was reach in. I said you’ve got to survive because if the ship goes all the way down like down down your husband’s going your son’s going, like my son didn’t ask to be here. So, for me, I just had to really dig deep with every fiber of my being and fight my way out of homelessness where I worked three jobs and I went to school full-time because remember I had the gi bill you know. I think it was a combination of the dreams that I had and the situation that I found myself in that put a fire up under me to say you have got to get out of this thing you will get out.
The needs for women veterans have never properly been addressed. One day, about two o’clock in the morning, I had this come to Jesus moment where I had to look myself in the mirror and I said you’re Ginger Miller: wife, mother, caregiver, disabled veteran, commissioner — all these great things, and the last thing that popped in my head was woman veteran. I said you know what, what’s out there for women veterans? Organizations were addressing the needs of veterans as a whole, no one was addressing the specific needs of women veterans. No one was addressing military sexual trauma. No one was addressing women veterans who were homeless. No one was addressing women veterans who weren’t transitioning well. In retrospect, women veterans really need our own programs, because we have specific needs that men just don’t have and, number one, women veterans are sometimes afraid to reach out for help because we can’t identify with an organization that looks like us and that’s for us.
That’s who we are at women veterans interactive. We’re just here to meet women veterans at their points of need, whatever that need is. I tell folks all the time, if you’re homeless, we’ll feed you. If you’re looking for a job, we can put you in the women veterans transition space. If you need a friend we can offer you peer-to-peer support, and if you’re looking for a way to give back, we can help you with that as well. We’re a full-service non-profit organization for women veterans
Alia Collins, WVI Member:
I served in the United States Navy for four and a half years as a cryptologic technician technical. I first learned about WVI in 2013. Recently, the organization has come back in my life after I had a stint with being homeless. I actually ended up going to like a business meetup and I just knew she was going to be there. I walked up to her and she said, “Hey Alia, where you been?” and I just started crying and I told her what was going on and she said she was like give me your number and we’re gonna fix this and we did. You know she helped me out with you know getting my room paid for, with food… WVI has truly made an impact on me as a mom, as a veteran, as a woman and it has inspired me to get back on my feet to give back to my community to reach out and help when it doesn’t look like there is a solution to create one. If you don’t create a solution, you’ll always have a problem.
One of my biggest accomplishments as the president and CEO of Women Veterans Interactive is the national women veterans leadership and diversity conference. They come from all over the country. It’s an amazing time. They get empowered by panels, workshops, keynotes. We partner with the department of veterans affairs, amazing sponsors like USAA and Comcast, and B3. What’s really special about this event is it is always hosted on or around the veterans day holiday, so it’s more of a tribute to the women who have served and sacrificed with this country, but it’s also a learning experience. You leave this conference feeling empowered feeling connected to other women veterans. Due to Covid-19, we had the conference virtual with a career fair with big-name tech companies to recruit women veterans virtually.
We have something that’s not being done anyplace else in the country and I honestly believe that it can’t be duplicated.
JJ Montanaro, CFP USAA:
If there’s any event where really we were able to come in and say this is really mission-oriented, mission focus, this is what being an advocate for the military community is all about. WVI is a great example of that and a great example of us being there for our members where they need us.
WVI’s annual conferences is really unique because you get to see a lot of things going on and a lot of things really, that touched me in terms of our mission and military advocacy here at USAA. Whether it’s VA personnel right there on-site helping people fill out their VA paperwork, or panels on careers, so you see all those things going on. It’s a lot of fun, but more importantly, there’s a lot of good stuff going on and a lot of things that are going to make a difference in people’s lives.
Dwight Hunt, President & CEO B3 Group, Inc:
the reason I feel it’s so important to support WVI is the increased population we’ll have of our women veterans. In the future, they’ll make up almost 20 percent of the entire veteran community and they’ve experienced some unique challenges. We’re trying to understand those and define them and provide them better care.
Jacqueline Owens, WVI Member:
The organization, as a whole, just makes me want to spread the knowledge and share all the wonderful things that this organization does for women veterans. It’ll open the eyes to others that just don’t know because women are the only people who have ever served voluntarily. Never been drafted. Women have even dressed up like men to serve. I think opening doors and opening eyes to people so they know that we love our country just as much as anybody else — that we serve and give our lives to you.
To learn more about Women Veterans Interactive, visit their website here: https://womenveteransinteractive.org/