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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Western women veterans share their stories


Sociology major Cortni Alexander knew being a woman in the military would be a challenge.

“I knew I had to work twice as hard to get half of the rewards,” Alexander said.

Alexander and four other veterans shared their experiences in the military Feb. 22.

Western students share their stories as women in the military // photo by Hannah Hanson

Ann Beck, assistant director of veteran services, moderated the event by presenting the women with eight questions to answer surrounding their times in service and their life now as veterans.

The Western Women’s Veterans Panel was hosted by Western’s Veteran Services. This was the second year the event was held.  The audience had the opportunity to hear stories from the veterans with a chance to ask questions at the end. Questions ranged from what faculty can do better to support veterans, to how to assist a loved one with their transition back home.

Beck’s leading question asked why the women decided to join the military. The resounding answer was the help it offered with college tuition.  Alexander came from a family with five other siblings, and knew she had to come up with the money on her own for college to be an option.

“I knew my parents couldn’t afford to send six kids to college. It would be very unfair of me to expect them to send me to college, so I decided to give myself an opportunity.”
Cortni Alexander

Alexander, originally from Los Angeles, served four years in the navy. She was discharged in December 2015.

For Heather Mueller, a political science and women’s studies student, the navy provided her with many firsts.  

“The navy provided me with first time to see the ocean, so that was pretty awesome for me,” Mueller said. “As well the first time to be on a plane, or see an aircraft carrier.”

Mueller, who is from Iowa, spent the majority of her five years with the navy working on ejection seats. She retired for medical reasons and is finishing her last quarter at Western.

Brittany Dyamond, a manufacturing a supply chain management student, had her toughest experience as a woman in the military when she was in the marines. She was the only woman in an all male shop. Men in the shop ostracized her, setting her up for failure, she said.

“Nothing that I could do was right and I failed at every turn. That was one of toughest situations I found myself in,” Dyamond said.

Being in Afghanistan made the challenge more difficult because Dyamond was deployed alone and felt like an outsider, she said.

“I couldn’t even communicate with my home command to tell them what the culture was like in my unit because I was so terrified that they were monitoring all of my communications.  So I just kind of sat there and walked on eggshells everyday,” Dyamond said. “That was the biggest eye-opening experience in regards to communication and how women are dealt with.”

Dyamond is originally from Pennsylvania and served in the navy from 2008-2015.

Information regarding future events through Veteran Services is available at wp.wwu.edu/veteranservices/.



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