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The Challenges Of Re-Entry For Women Veterans

Caydee Daniel
Grace After Fire CEO and retired Air Force colonel Kim Olson talks with KERA's Rick Holter.

As the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have wound down, there’s been a sharp jump in the number of women returning from front-line duty. Kim Olson, a veteran herself, runs a North Texas nonprofit that focuses on these women – it’s called Grace After Fire. She sits down with KERA’s vice president of news, Rick Holter, for today’s Friday Conversation.

Interview Highlights: Kim Olson...

...on the biggest difference between female veterans today and those returning from the Korean War:

"What’s really different is that they’re young, they’ve done multiple deployments, and they’ve actually gone into harm’s way meaning direct combat. The battle space of our wars have changed. If you are in the area, you’re in combat because the rocket grenade launch missile doesn’t care what gender you are. We’ve had men and women hurt in harm’s way."

...on the differences between men and women dealing with post-traumatic stress: 

"I think it does because women process trauma differently than men. So it would make sense that the kind of therapies we need to get better has to look different than what works with a guy. But the legacy systems – the big bureaucracies that were set up to take care of veterans – was built around a 60-year-old male model.

Let’s contrast that with the female: 60 percent of our gals are married to other military men or veterans themselves and about half of those have school-age children, and she has different health issues than a 60-year-old guy. So that’s why we’re struggling around PTS and some of the other issues that you see are coming to the forefront around women veterans."

...on guiding a veteran who's experienced sexual assault in the military: 

"What we find is that the best kind of therapy for that is one that works like the incest, because in a way, that’s kind of what it is. The military is a family, so when it betrays you, it is like your family has betrayed you. It is very important that you get counseling that addresses that trust issue.

That particular event is really what we find is the core problem for women who become homeless. For men, it’s different. Its mental health issues that lead to addiction and those kinds of things. For women, it is that event that will then drive her to the street."

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.