Women Veterans share their stories and are celebrated for their service
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Veterans Day is widely celebrated each year on November 11. November 9 is also a special commemorative day that honors women who have served in our Armed Forces and recognizes the accomplishments, contributions, duty, and sacrifice they have given to the nation and their families.
On Wednesday, November 9, 2022, local veterans gathered at The Venue in downtown Fairbanks to share their stories.
Coming from all walks of life, together they share a commonality, and together their lives are intertwined by their service to this country. During the event, “Celebrating Sisterhood of Veterans; Women in Military Service,” one Air Force Veteran spoke about her experience.
“It was amazing,” said retired Tech Sergeant Ashleigh Bush, “You know being a female in the 90′s and the early 2000′s you’re kind of put in this bubble, and you have new social media that is coming out, reality TV started to get really big, and now you are trying to figure out who you are.”
Bush explained her experience of joining the military had been a journey of self-discovery. If it hadn’t been for the military, she wouldn’t have had the opportunities, training, education, or perspective she has now. She also wanted to “step outside of the box,” and have a career unlike her peers at the time who were teachers or nurses.
“The Air Force kind of gave me that opportunity to see the world and broaden my horizons and not have to think locally but think globally. And really, they supported me in everything that I did. They gave me every training opportunity and gave me the best education I could possibly hope for,” said Bush.
After serving in the military, Bush said not putting on the uniform every day left her with a feeling or sense of identity loss. She said for many people, and a question she asked herself was, what come next after the uniform?
“You try and figure out who you are as a person after the uniform and you forget there were other women before you, “she said. ‘Then coming into something like this and seeing other women that had that same opportunity that you did, that understand where each other came from and you don’t even have to have anything in common, but you are sisters in Arms, this is amazing.”
U.S Army Veteran Olivia Pack had a different experience during her time in the military. She explained she joined the Army Guard initially, then went to college before enlisting active duty.
“So I got the enlisted side, plus the officer side of the military which was unique and very different in the same aspect,” said Pack. “Being enlisted and then doing officer work as well.”
She moved to Alaska with her husband and fell in love with Alaska. Pack said when she decided to go to the event she wasn’t sure what to expect, but she was in for a very special surprise.
“It’s crazy because we were standing here and then someone who I served with in 2018 walked in. I haven’t seen her since,” said Pack. “So it is just wild how small the military and the world is, and I just feel like it just brings people together. Seeing someone who was such a big part of your life at the time and seeing them four years later we were just talking and picking up right where we left off.”
As a woman who experienced 8 years in the military, she had a message she wanted to share with young women who are considering joining the service.
“I think it is so important for women to represent themselves,” said Pack. “I think there is no better person to represent us and tell people what we need, and how we work other than women, so I think it’s really important that we are doing everything that men can do.”
The keynote speaker of the event was U.S Army Lieutenant Colonel Virginia Supanick.
Supanick, has served in the Army in many capacities. Currently, she is the Professor of Military Science at the University of Alaska and teaches students in Fairbanks and Anchorage. During the event, she spoke about her experiences in the military. She like many others came from a military family. Supanick and her sister both followed in the footsteps of her father and grandfather.
“I joined the Army when opportunities were available to me as a woman,” said Supanick. “I never thought of myself as a woman serving in the Army, I always thought of myself as a soldier and a leader in the Army.”
Present-day women in the military are on the front lines more than ever before. In fact, more than 16 percent of our nation’s Armed Forces are women, serving in every branch of the military.
It hasn’t always been an easy road for women in the military. Even before legislation allowed women to formally join the military in 1948, tens of thousands of women paved the path, working as nurses, pilots, telephone operators, and mechanics. Some even disguised themselves during the war to fight among men. That’s according to the USO.
Over 200 Years of Service: The History of Women in the U.S. Military · United Service Organizations
Although they did not get the recognition they deserved, they played a crucial role in our history. Working as trailblazers for others to follow their own paths.
“Being in a male-driven career isn’t always easy, but you have something to say,” said Bush. “What you have to say is important.”
She shared some advice she would give herself if she could talk to her 19-year-old self. “At the end of the day stand your ground and stick up for the little guy, “she said. “It is going to be the best experience of your life and just take that experience for what it is, good bad, or otherwise and turn it into something amazing.”
At the end of the night, those in the room raised a toast. Honoring those who have served, those who are gone, and those women who still wear the uniform and continue to fight for their country.
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