Or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­ports fe­male veter­ans re-en­ter­ing the work­force

Or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­ports fe­male veter­ans en­ter­ing the work­force

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

What hap­pens when a fe­male mil­i­tary vet­eran re­turns to civil­ian life af­ter spend­ing years away in an­other coun­try or on­board a ship as one of only a few other women? The tran­si­tion can some­times be dif­fi­cult, and one White Plains res­i­dent is hop­ing to ease the process for lo­cal fe­male veter­ans.

“The pur­pose is to give back to them and say thank you to them,” said Michelle Dow­leyne, founder and CEO of Boots 2 Heels Inc., a pro­gram ded­i­cated to shift­ing women from mil­i­tary boots to work­place stilet­tos.

“I’m a re­tired Army vet­eran and I had a hard time tran­si­tion­ing when I got out,” Dow­leyne said. “I went back into the work­force and found my­self strug­gling with is­sues. I had a good gov­ern­ment job but still had is­sues I wasn’t able to work through. I started get­ting help and found that other women veter­ans out there didn’t have a lot of re­sources or peo­ple to talk to, and that’s where the or­ga­ni­za­tion started.”

The non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­vides net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, job search as­sis­tance, in­ter­view prepa­ra­tion, pro­fes­sional cloth­ing and guides to ser­vices for fe­male veter­ans.

Dur­ing her 22 years in the U.S. Army, most of that time spent as a chap­lain as­sis­tant, Dow­leyne was de­ployed sev­eral times and spent hol­i­days and birth­days away from her two chil­dren. She said be­ing away from her fam­ily dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son was the hard­est and an­other rea­son why fe­male veter­ans de­serve to be thanked this time of year.

“Even though you’re away from your coun­try and do­ing what needs to be done, you’re away from your fam­ily and miss­ing them and that’s why I think the hol­i­days is a spe­cial time to give back to them be­cause they’ve given to oth­ers,” Dow­leyne said. “Es­pe­cially for a mother. You’re giv­ing so much of your­self and no one is giv­ing to you.”

Boots 2 Heels is host­ing the sec­ond an­nual Hol­i­day So­cial event Sun­day, Dec. 18, at the Old Wal­dorf School in Wal­dorf. In ad­di­tion to hon­or­ing all fe­male veter­ans, two women will be rec­og­nized for their work spent help­ing veter­ans.

Dyotha Sweat, vice pres­i­dent of the Charles County NAACP and pres­i­dent of the Clin­ton Kappa chap­ter of Kappa Ep­silon Psi Mil­i­tary Soror­ity, joined the mil­i­tary in 1986 and served 24 years in the U.S. Navy. Her most dif­fi­cult tour, which she also says was her most re­ward­ing, was on­board a ship based out of Ja­pan where she was one of only a hand­ful of fe­males among hun­dreds of male coun­ter­parts. She said that time was stress­ful be­cause she was held to a dif­fer­ent stan­dard as an ex­am­ple for younger sol­diers and was in charge of any fe­male con­cerns on the ship.

She said events and or­ga­ni­za­tions like Boots 2 Heels are im­por­tant to show young women the op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able to them.

“It show­cases to our up-and-com­ing young ladies that you can go into the mil­i­tary and even if you don’t com­plete the 20 years, you have the op­por­tu­ni­ties the mil­i­tary af­fords you,” Sweat said. “It’s im­por­tant that we as women, we con­tinue to fol­low our dreams… the com­mu­nity needs to see that we’re pro­fes­sion­als and ed­u­cated and we may learn to shoot guns and crawl around in the mud, but we are still ladies at the end of the day.”

Sweat said be­ing cho­sen as an hon­oree at the event was “sur­pris­ing but re­fresh­ing.”

“I en­joy what I do and when I see peo­ple who have op­por­tu­ni­ties that I didn’t have at a young point in my life, it makes me feel like I’m do­ing what I’m sup­posed to do and it makes me happy that I can be rec­og­nized for it,” she said.

El­iz­a­beth McDow­ell, an of­fi­cer with Dis­abled Amer­i­can Veter­ans, em­barked on help­ing other veter­ans file dis­abil­ity claims af­ter fil­ing her own af­ter re­tir­ing from the mil­i­tary.

McDow­ell joined the mil­i­tary in 1979 with the hope of see­ing the world and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dif­fer­ent cul­tures. Through­out her ca­reer, McDow­ell trav­eled to Bel­gium, Ger­many, Korea and was sta­tioned at sev­eral lo­ca­tions in the U.S. She said be­ing rec­og­nized at the Boots 2 Heels event is “very re­ward­ing.”

“I’m from a small town in the coun­try and had never re­ally been any­where and to learn and know that trav­el­ing and learn­ing how other peo­ple live and the dif­fer­ent cul­tures out there is good to know — and not only that, but how to get along with peo­ple, not only Amer­i­cans,” McDow­ell said. “It teaches you that peo­ple are peo­ple no mat­ter where you go and even be­ing in an­other coun­try, ev­ery­body should be treated the same.”


The 2015 Boots 2 Heels, Inc. Hol­i­day So­cial brought to­gether women veter­ans from around the area to rec­og­nize and sup­port each other. Boots 2 Heels Inc. is an or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to con­nect­ing fe­male veter­ans to ser­vices that will help them tran­si­tion to civil­ian life af­ter the mil­i­tary. This year’s so­cial will take place Sun­day, Dec. 18 at the Old Wal­dorf School in Wal­dorf.

Boots 2 Heels, Inc. pro­vides work­shops and sem­i­nars for net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, job search as­sis­tance, in­ter­view prepa­ra­tion, claim as­sis­tance and more for fe­male veter­ans as they shift into civil­ian life from the mil­i­tary.

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