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Murkowski Honors Gulf War Veteran, Founder of Alaska Veterans Organization for Women

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Lisa Murkowski is releasing her 6th Veteran Spotlight installment today, featuring U.S. Army veteran Vanessa Meade – who served on the front lines during the Gulf War.  Meade continued her service in the National Guard, then came to Alaska where she created the Alaska Veterans Organization for Women last year.

During the First Gulf War, Vanessa Meade was a military police officer in Iraq, charged with transporting potentially-dangerous prisoners of war – frequently finding herself on the front lines of Operation Desert Storm.  During her Veteran Spotlight interview, Meade recalls that her prisoners often didn’t realize she was a woman until she spoke to them.  She also remembers the difficult split she felt between her and other female soldiers because of the need she felt to be “one of the guys” throughout her military career.

“As a woman in the military, especially in a combat-type situation, you want to be seen as one of the guys and you want to fit in.  You go above and beyond to prove yourself and you’re almost pitted against your fellow female soldiers,” said Vanessa Meade.   “It’s an unfortunate reality, and I started the Alaska Veterans Organization for Women to bring women veterans together to share experiences and support one another when once they return to Alaska.”

Vanessa Meade’s Alaska Veterans Organization for Women, or AVOW, was created in 2011 to support women veterans through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment.  AVOW members tackle issues like the guilt associated with women leaving their families to serve, military sexual trauma- which ranges from sexual harassment to rape, and lack of some VA services for women.

“Vanessa’s story highlights the experience of a woman in a world dominated by men, especially as it was in the early 1990s,” said Murkowski.  “She served her nation bravely, then returned home and created the only women-specific veterans support group in Alaska.  We owe it to veterans like Vanessa Meade to share her story and her duty, and we owe it to all Americans to learn from the high levels of patriotism, commitment and service they demonstrated for us.”

The “Veteran Spotlight” project is a monthly focus on an Alaska veteran of our conflicts worldwide to honor and draw well-deserved attention to Alaska’s men and women who served.  This installment is the sixth in the series that began on Memorial Day weekend of 2012.  Every month, the Senator posts a biography and an interview with an Alaskan who served our country abroad, in conjunction with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.  The interview series is now a feature at the Alaska Veterans Museum, as well as an educational tool for students around the state.  You can watch them all by clicking here.

Senator Murkowski invites all Alaskans to nominate a veteran from the 49th state to be featured in the Veteran Spotlight project.  If you have a family member or friend in the community you think has a story to share, email Spotlight@Murkowski.Senate.Gov.

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