Airmen join cause for women veterans

  • Published
  • By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
  • I.G. Brown Training and Education Center

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the Air National Guard’s primary learning center in East Tennessee played a role in holding the Freddie J. Owens Women Veterans Summit, October 3, in Maryville, Tennessee.

“As a fellow woman veteran, I want to support and give back to the other women veterans,” Tech. Sgt. Renee Wiederspahn, a professional military education instructor at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center, said.

Wiederspahn joined a dozen others from TEC who greeted and assisted hundreds in the community that came out to celebrate women warriors who served.

“I attended last year’s women summit,” Tech. Sgt. Amy Smyser, who teaches Airman leadership school at TEC, said. “It was a great way to support our local female veterans – so I volunteered again this year.”

The first summit came from those who recognized a need to spotlight women in military service, celebrate them, and ensure their awareness of benefits and programs. There are about 2 million U.S. women veterans, in a 2015 government estimate.

Organizers pointed out that Freddie Owen was the U.S. Army, Vietnam combat veteran who came up with the initial notion, to better honor women who served. He died the first year it was held, in 2018.

“He had a heart for women veterans and felt that they were some of the veterans that were not often recognized,” Emily Hager, summit organizer, said.

Hager said that the summit continues to celebrate women veterans in the community. “It’s nice to be able to bring the women veterans together and have that unity and comradery that’s here,” she said.

Hagar said that their volunteers, sponsors, and community supporters helped ensure another summit. Veterans Affairs and veterans’ services representatives were on-site. Veterans and others in attendance networked and listened to guest speakers, which included local celebrity advocates and officials.