By Rose L. Thayer
Fort Hood Herald
Women make up 8 percent of all veterans and as more women separate from the military, they go through some different emotions and issues from men, said Tammy Figueroa.
As an outreach coordinator for the nonprofit Grace After Fire, she can be a listening ear to those women and then help refer them to resources that will help them succeed in their post-military life.
"They are learning how to be mothers and wives again," she said. "We have unique needs and we do have different issues."
Founded in 2008, the organization is headquartered in Fort Worth and currently serves 20 counties in Texas.
By next year, the female veteran population in Texas is expected to surpass 163,000; Grace is dedicated to helping women veterans help themselves by providing the means to gain knowledge, insight and self-renewal, according to information from the organization.
Figueroa said this means referring women to services ranging from housing to employment to childcare to post-traumatic stress disorder treatment.
"They really want the help," she said. "They want someone to help guide them."
As a veteran herself, Figueroa said, she also provides women space to talk about the issues they are facing, both one-on-one and in a group setting.
"I know how lost I was and I don't want anyone to go through that," she said of using her personal experience to help others. "I know that I can relate to what they are going through."
The two biggest issues Figueroa said she hears from women revolve around mental health and employment.
Most of the mental health issues, she said, stem from PTSD and military sexual trauma. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, one in five women veterans have been a victim of military sexual trauma, the Defense Department's term for everything from sexual harrassment to rape.
For those sort of referrals, Figueroa said she directs women to the resources available to them through the VA, but for employment, she often works with the Texas Veterans Commission.
"I think Grace After Fire is very helpful and very good," said Sandra Jones, a local veterans employment representative with the commission. "For females, there's not a lot of stuff out there. Most women in the military don't realize they're a veteran and the benefits they get."
Jones said that for females veterans new to the civilian world, talking to someone with experience, such as Figueroa, is helpful.
"They can relate to each other," she said. "They're coming from a male-dominated organization and they get lost in that."
In March, Grace After Fire will be hosting its first Women Veterans' Summit in Dallas to discuss the issues important to Texas women veterans from every branch of service. Guest speakers include Texas Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and retired Brig. Gen. Rebecca Halstead.
Contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.
For more information on Grace After Fire and the Women Veterans' Summit, go to, www.graceafterfire.org.