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Saturday, August 23, 2014 - 5:37pm
El Paso (KDBC) — The Women Veterans' Symposium is held with the hopes of connecting women veterans with each other and making them aware of the resources they have access to. It is hosted by the Military Veteran Peer Network.
Sheila Joplin attended last year's symposium with a few challenges. She was a single Army veteran with children, and homeless.
"[The struggles], for me, being a female vet, not being aware, not being acknowledged. You're just out there. You forget you were a vet, I forgot I was a vet. I served my time just like anybody else. And when its time to get your benefits, they just don't know what to do with you," Joplin said.
At last year's event, Joplin was able to connect with Project Amistad, who helped her and her children find a stable home. She was also able to get the benefits she qualified for.
"Women often don't identify themselves as veterans when they get out of the services. Why this is, we're not sure. Maybe a lot of times it's the dual role as being mothers and wives and kind of trying to find the woman within the warrior is what we like to say," said Kelli Burns, spokesperson for the Emergence Health Network.
She adds the symposium provides a way for women veterans to connect with one another as they adjust to civilian life.
Officials say veterans often wait until the last minute to get their benefits or learn about available resources. The best thing they can do is start early.
"Just come in and ask for help. because you don't know the resources that are out there available to you. There's a lot of pieces that go into your care. And they just don't know all of them," said Emily Horstman, a transition patient advocate.
As for Joplin, she said she returned to this year's event hopeful and with a new goal in mind. To help others learn about the available resources and provide support to other veterans that may be struggling.
The Military Veteran Peer Network has chapters all across Texas, including here in El Paso. For more information, visit their website.