Around 100 female veterans from all branches of the military flocked to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1587 in Indianapolis, Indiana Wednesday as part of the VA’s photo shoot project “I Am Not Invisible.”
The project’s goal is to bring attention and awareness to America’s neatly two million female veterans, a military demographic that sometimes goes overlooked.
“I’m a war veteran, Iraqi War veteran, so things I’ve been through, it’s important for me to let people know, I’m still standing. I’m not invisible,” said U.S. Air Force veteran Tonia Vincent, one of the participants in the photo shoot.
“When you’re seen at the doctor, the first thing they ask the males is, ‘Are you here to see the doctor?’ They ask my husband that and he says ‘No, my wife is the veteran.’ So it’s still a shock, ’til today, that we have female veterans,” she continued to WTHR 13.
To the female veterans participating, the pictures were more than just a photo shoot, they were an opportunity to be heard and appreciated for their service to their country.
“It’s [the photo shoot] a part of the Center for Women Veterans outreach program acknowledging and honoring women veterans,” said Gene Russell, the primary photographer for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, who is based out of Washington D.C.
“Indianapolis is about our 46th city and our 35th state. And we’re up into the 2,000 range of women veterans we’ve honored,” said Russell. “The goal of the Center of Women Veterans is to photograph in all 50 states and to have those images tour around the states in libraries and federal buildings and VA buildings. So that we can honor these women and we can teach America how all of us served,” added Russell.
“It’s important to me that (my son) knows mom has done the same things that dad has done,” said U.S. Army veteran Geraldine Straber. “It just lets him know that women can do many different things, and there’s no cap on what we can do.”
“We need to continue to promote the service of women veterans. Until we get more stories of women in service, in fiction and nonfiction, we will continue to be invisible. So this is a great opportunity,” said U.S. Air Force veteran Lisa Wilken.
Currently, there is a bill in the works that would designate June 12th as “Women Veterans Appreciation Day,” but until then, VA photo project “I Am Not Invisible” will continue touring, photographing our country’s female veterans and spreading the word of their dedicated service throughout the USA.