March is Women’s History Month and Hope For The Warriors® honored our women warriors with a four-day Winter Retreat in Woodstock, Vermont. Participants of the retreat braved skiing and snowboarding at Killington Mountain, were pampered at a local spa and enjoyed team-building activities such as art therapy, cooking, an exploration walk, and thoughtful group discussions. A diverse group of eight post-9/11 women veterans and reservists from all over the country attended the retreat. These women represented different military branches, units, ranks, and deployment histories. Despite their differences, unifying experiences connected them instantly – a few women even discovered that they were deployed to the same location in Iraq at the same time! Also on the retreat were three Hope For The Warriors® staff (including one woman veteran peer mentor) and a Marine Corps veteran and her partner, who generously donated the use of their home for this group adventure.
It was the first time stepping in ski boots for nearly all of the women veterans and it proved to be an exciting, fun, and challenging experience. The women’s qualities of strength, perseverance, and mutual support were evident throughout the day on the mountain. They challenged themselves and overcame fears through collaborative efforts and encouragement of one another. This solidarity and support were not only apparent in the challenge of conquering the mountain, but also in the way the women, who began the trip as strangers, developed genuine bonds with each other throughout the weekend. They opened up to one another about military experiences, both positive and negative, and found they could relate in meaningful ways. Some women shared challenges that still feel raw and open, some shared experiences and feelings that they had kept to themselves for years. Those who had experienced similar events provided validation, understanding, and empowerment. The women walked away from these discussions with a newfound sense of hope and healing through the power of the group. SFC Angela Green, US Army Reserve, shared the following about her experience on the retreat:
“[I valued] meeting new and wonderful people. Women from all branches, all backgrounds and all over the US came together as if we already knew one another. [Being with the other women veterans was] relatable and empowering. It allowed women to be women, to be themselves... There's just so much that can't be explained and understood by male veterans. Women are challenged (not always in a good way) daily in the Military. We explore events and start discussions that often stir up arguments, denial, disbelief, complete ignorance and or name calling. In life sometimes you need validation... Meeting ladies who have been there, been through similar experiences… [Sharing] what they are doing now helps to put things in perspective. Life is far from perfect but it's a blessing to know you have support, one that doesn't [involve] medication or a counselor. I will remember to stay strong and carry my head high... I have a lot to be thankful and happy about. I will not let life's disappointments or the unknown overtake me.”
Hope For The Warriors® first women veterans retreat proved to be an exceptional experience. By focusing on team-building adventures, honoring strengths, and exploring shared experiences, this retreat created an opportunity for women veterans to connect as a community and grow both as individuals and a group.
For Hope For The Warriors®, honoring our women veterans does not stop after Women’s History Month. In fact, our Women Veterans Initiative continues to put on monthly events for our women warriors, including local activities, community service opportunities, professional development events, and future retreats. Next month, Hope For The Warriors® Women Veterans Initiative will again have a team for New York Cares Day Spring! For more information or to sign up for programming, please contact Andrea Cilento at firstname.lastname@example.org.