Women of War

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Anna Baker, program manager for Women Veterans of the Texas Veterans Commission, honored seven women at the Alfredo Gonzales Texas State Veterans Home. Anna Baker, program manager for Women Veterans of the Texas Veterans Commission, honored seven women at the Alfredo Gonzales Texas State Veterans Home.

MCALLEN – Female veterans are three times more likely to be homeless. It’s just one of the hurdles women in the service face.

In October, during CHANNEL 5 NEWS’ Heart of the Valley, a spotlight shined on helping homeless veterans, local agencies we worked with were trying to keep awareness of the homeless message alive.

They are remembering the first women of the service, the women of war who laid the foundation for female veterans.

At 96 years old, Julia Pater is being honored. Pater is a veteran who just wouldn’t quit.

“She enlisted three different times," Anna Baker told CHANNEL 5 NEWS. "She’s like, I’m not done yet. I want more. It’s in my heart and I want to serve.”

On Tuesday, Baker, program manager for Women Veterans of the Texas Veterans Commission, honored seven women at the Alfredo Gonzales Texas State Veterans Home.

One by one, 38 women veterans were honored at retirement facilities around the Rio Grande Valley.

Baker, a former service member herself, is trying to make sure they’re not forgotten.

"That’s part of the problem," says Baker, "that we forget that women served. Those women were part of the foundation of women that made those sacrifices."

Things have changed since then. Honoree Maisie Stevenson will tell you about her experience.

"A lot of the women objected to the fact that they were kind of there for the men to date and make time with," she said.

Stevenson served in the 50s. She never let the perception of women at the time hold her back.

She said her male counterparts told her, "He said, it wasn’t much fun following you in school because they would say – if she could do it… why can’t you?"

Since then Stevenson’s watched the younger women in her family follow in her footsteps. They get a lot more opportunities.

“I have an ex-daughter in law who was in the navy," says Stevenson. "She actually served aboard ship. When I was in the service you didn’t go to sea.”

Stevenson’s granddaughter went to Kuwait.

Today, women are facing new obstacles. Baker told us women veterans are at higher risk of becoming homeless.

"Three times higher than that of their non-veteran counterparts and male veteran counterparts," said Baker.

The National Coalition of Homeless Veterans says post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma are contributing factors.

Baker says many single mothers struggle with unequal pay once they end their military careers.

"Women coming out of the military are having to learn this new skill, having to negotiate their own pay," Baker said.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to Hidalgo County. It tracks homelessness each year.

During their last census, 22 of the 349 people identified themselves as veterans. They do not know how many of those veterans are women.

"Letting people know that there are women who served and that there are services available to them is very important," said Baker.

For Baker, part of improving the future means not only looking forward but also looking to the past.

Resources are available for veterans, regardless of gender. Visit the Texas Veterans Commission website and click on Topics & Help to search for resources available for specific needs.

For more resources for veterans post-military life, click here.

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