WINC for All Women Veterans
By Meochia Nochi Thompson
On Thursday, evening, April 27th, Magic’s104.9FM, hosts of Life Chats, Meochia and the Brother-in-Law attended the HER2 Military Women of Excellence Awards, hosted by WINC. WINC (Women Injured in Combat), founded by retired veteran, Attorney Zaneta Adams, is an organization which provides meet-ups, retreats, scholarships, peer support groups, resource support and more. These services benefit the overall mental, physical, spiritual and social well-being of all women in the military; active, inactive or retired.
The ceremony featured 11 military honorees from all over the US; Rachel Prater, Joey Caswell, Barbara Locke, Heidi Zeller, Dr. Ruth Moore, Mitze Alexander, Dr. JoAnn Fisher, Venitrice Williams, Genuva Williams, Shantelle Mainville and Willa Neil Garrette. They were given beautifully, personalized awards and a proclamation from Mayor of Muskegon, Stephen Gawron, who also declared April 26th Women’s Veterans Day in the city of Muskegon, Michigan. They also received a resolution from the Office of US Senator, Gary Peters and special tribute by State Representative Perry Sabo.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Command Sergeant Major Retired, Michele S. Jones, the first Woman to Command the entire US Army Reserve. Her achievements stand as a monument in the African American Museum in Washington, DC. Her memorable speech left everyone with four bones to always remember; backbone, wishbone funny bone and tailbone. She served in the US Army for 25 years and has been retired for 11 years.
Michelle S. Jones said she is fully engaged in the space of Women Veterans, at all levels. “How do you allow communities to disregard women veterans? It’s not happening on my watch.”
She sits on the Department of Defense Advisory Committee for developing recommendations for the Secretary of Defense known as DACOWITS (Development Advisory Committee On Women in the Service) that makes policy recommendations that affect women serving today and in the future. She is also a transformational speaker, Mentor and Life Coach.
The event took place over two days, starting with a panel discussion and think tank on ways to help change and create new legislation to benefit women in the military, especially when it pertains to sexual abuse and fair treatment. According to an article published by NBCnews.com, service members reported 6,172 cases of sexual assault in 2016 compared to 6,082 last year, an annual military report showed. This was a sharp jump from 2012 when 3,604 cases were reported. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/sexual-assault-reports-u-s-military-reach-record-high-pentagon-n753566
Honoree, Heidi Zellar received an HER2 award for Outstanding Support of Veterans. Zellar isn’t surprised by the rise in numbers of women beginning to speak up, now.
“I fell under a different scenario. I was gay in the military when it wasn’t allowed and they would get you for something like a federal document and so we lived with witch hunts and so if you didn’t screw the guys in the barracks and you were playing softball, they would use that as leverage to blackmail in order to receive sex so they wouldn’t turn you in to lose your top secret clearance. I didn’t even know it was rape. I thought it was survival. When I found out about WINC and knew that I was no longer alone and I got with a sisterhood,” Zellar explained.
After suffering a brain aneurism believed to be brought on by PTSD caused by sexual trauma that should have left her for dead and now living with another one that could erupt at any time, Zellar stands Army Strong in support of WINC. Dressed in an evening gown with a pair of converses on, she made supporting her fellow veterans, her mission.
Honoree, Dr. JoAnn Fisher, the CEO of Women Veterans United, Inc., was very passionate about the rise of sexual misconduct in the military and laws pertaining to it. “It is not enough. This is an outrage. Something must be done!” She is a supporter of SWAN, Service Women’s Activation Network, which has formed a coalition to help pass legislation to prevent future incidents and hold offenders accountable.
The awards ceremony Co-hosts were, singer, song-writer and actor Ivan Ellis and retired Air Force Veteran and Motivational Speaker, Dana Tolson Blake, who completed 27 years of service.
WINC has also formed a national partnership with Challenge America for the Military Sisterhood Initiative.
To support or learn more about WINC, visit www.wincforall.org.
Meochia Nochi Thompson is host of Life Chats on Magic 104.9FM in Grand Rapids, Michigan and an author, marketing consultant, speaker and the publisher of Blessed Pen Ink. Visit her pages, www.mylifechats.com and www.blessedpenink.com.