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Creating camaraderie among veterans

Stillwater NewsPress - 3/10/2017

March 10--Get involved and help make a positive impact in your community.

Those were the driving themes Thursday at the second-annual Women Veterans' Symposium on the Oklahoma State University campus.

Women veterans, reservists, National Guard members and active-duty military were invited to attend.

"Women veterans are the most underserved veterans in the nation," said Rick Hansen, coordinator of Veteran Student Academic Services at OSU, which put on the event.

This event is designed to bring women together, build camaraderie and to let them know about all the services available to them, Hansen said.

The Wes Watkins Center exhibit hall was lined with organizations including the Women's Clinic at the VA Regional Medical Center in Oklahoma City and veterans employment representatives from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission -- among others -- who passed out information to participants.

Eleanor McDaniel, who served 10 years in the U.S. Army including a combat tour working on an explosive ordnance demolition team during the Gulf War in 1990-91, was the first guest speaker.

McDaniel, a full-blood member of the Comanche Nation who was the first Comanche woman to serve in combat, spoke about her heritage and her years of service.

"It is pretty amazing to think about where I came from," McDaniel said.

She comes from a long line of leaders including chiefs and a grandmother who was a medicine woman.

"It was a real learning experience for me to see how she took care of her people," McDaniel said.

She followed in her brother's footsteps and joined the Army in 1982.

"My brother taught me to spit-shine my boots so they looked like glass," McDaniel said.

She served with the Comanche Indian Veterans Association more than 20 years and is now the commander of the Comanche Tribal Veterans Association.

"I think it is important to get involved," McDaniel said. "We can have a great impact on our communities."

She is also grateful for her time in the Army.

"I'm a better person for knowing the men and women I've served with," McDaniel said.

Keynote speaker Dee Woolridge, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserves, also addressed the crowd.

Breakout session topics included building a resume that produces interviews, taking care of your mental health and information about state and federal veteran benefits.

Gary Sandefur, provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs and Pamela Fry, vice provost and associate vice president for Undergraduate Education at OSU, both thanked the crowd for their service to their country.

Fry also encouraged participants to give feedback so that the third annual event could be even better.

Hansen said he was disappointed with attendance this year and will consider moving the event to a Saturday in hopes of attracting more students.

Twitter: @dbittonNP


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