Female Veterans: Invisible Heroes?
FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Amber Wilson slowly takes out the coloring books and the crayons. It’s one of her favorite things to do with her 3-year-old son Jacolby.
It’s a small break from a tough adjustment since returning home. “Being in the military was always my dream,” says Wilson, who is from Fort Worth, “I always knew there was nothing else I wanted to do more.”
The former Army Specialist served one tour in Iraq. Wilson, 28, has been home since 2004, but in many ways she is still fighting a personal war.
“My attitude was just different and no one really understood me,” explains Wilson who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Wilson fought on the front lines but also in a morgue.
She remembers one night when a little baby was brought in. “I walked up to it was a baby he was 3 months old he had gotten hit with a fragment,” remembers Wilson.
She still has nightmares.
Texas has more female vets than any other state, more than 150,000 of them. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs 20% of female vets suffer from PTSD and across the country 6,500 are homeless.
“I noticed I couldn’t keep jobs long,” says Wilson. She can relate. She was homeless at one point and had turned to alcohol to cope.
Wilson admits she was also arrested and even tried to kill herself by jumping off a bridge over Interstate 30 in Fort Worth. “I was getting ready to climb over put my leg over the fence and she pulled me down,” says Wilson.
Her friend pulled her down and then tried to get her help.
But Wilson says the problem was the bureaucratic red tape. “When they come back they need to get faster access to the care,” says Colonel Kimberly Olson who is the Executive Director of an online movement called Grace After Fire.
It’s a non-profit created by women veterans for women veterans and covers a hundred counties around the state. The organization helps provide counseling, financial help and a place where women feel comfortable.
“What works for men in a therapeutic sense or what they go to get help for that therapy is different than what works for women,” explains Col. Olson “If you are 61-years-old and you are veteran you go to the va because the system is set up for you but if you are 47 female or a 30-year-old female the VA is not equipped to handle all the unique needs that come with being a female vet.”
The organization got Wilson back in school and into a home. She wants to be a social worker.
She does have a medical discharge from the Army. “If I had a choice to be in I would still be there,” says Wilson who would serve again in a heartbeat, but says she knows that her priority now is surviving life after war.