Swords Hits the Road for Women Veterans Wellness

Starlyn speaks at the Women Warrior Wellness Conference

I had a great opportunity to visit California State University Stanislaus for their first Women Warrior Wellness Conference held on Thursday, February 20 in Turlock, California. The mission of the Women Warrior Wellness Program is to expand existing wellness services to include veteran students and community members. The university is committed to providing integrated support mechanisms for all veterans within the Central Valley, especially women veterans. CSU Stanislaus is engaged in strengthening ties to community organizations and increasing women veteran access to the resources they need, both on campus and in their private lives. The festivities began with the opening ceremonies including a presentation from Quilts of Honor.

The day program consisted of the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau hosting the Trauma-Informed Care training for faculty and staff and two panel presentations emphasized the university’s commitment to veterans. The first presentation was about veteran services on campus and the second panel focused on women veteran health including mental health. The evening program highlighted Native American spirit warriors as well as a community drum circle.

On February 22, the California Veterans Assistance Foundation sponsored the Kern County Women Veterans Stand Up! in Bakersfield, California. The event was designed to empower women veterans with a variety of service providers and information booths for women veterans that included healthcare, housing, employment and overall wellness. The event brought in community partners focused on boosting women’s confidence with an image consultant, and the local beauty school provided free haircuts and styling.

The California Veterans Assistance Foundation developed a Women Veterans Advisory Committee comprised of six local women veterans that have served in times of peace and war to coordinate and host this well-organized event. This committee hopes to make this stand-up a yearly event in Kern County. The event was covered by two local news channels and aired during the prime time news broadcast. Visit the website for more about this exciting program: http://www.kerngoldenempire.com/story/d/story/local-women-veterans-receive-assistance-at-inaugur/11623/7ce7tfMk40ip59T69uVxsQ.

Reins of H.O.P.E. (Human Opportunity Partnering with Equines), located in scenic Ojai, California partnered with the Lavender Inn to host a three day H.O.P.E. for Warriors Inn Power Women Veterans Retreat, February 24-26. Reins of H.O.P.E. serves the community by offering an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Program. They partner with horses as an experimental form of therapy, emphasizing the unique needs of each individual to promote growth and learn about themselves, and how changes in their behavior, thoughts and feelings can bring change in their lives. It is a powerful, short-term experiential therapy that is highly effective in developing resilience and adaptability in civilian life.

Equine sessions develop coping skills for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, anger, depression, addiction and grief. Time spent with the horses, out in a natural setting fosters trust, respect, problem-solving skills, improved communication and healthier relationships. The horses are co-therapists that offer a healing presence and have the unique ability to mirror their clients. During this retreat not only did the eight attendees spend time working with the horses, but they also participated in cooking classes, massages, yoga and expressive journaling at an historic bed and breakfast.

I am looking forward to Farmer Veteran Coalition’s upcoming Women Veteran Conference focusing on financial independence and networking that will take place in Davis, California. The first of two conferences will be held March 22-23. The second conference will be held in May.

Honoring the Path of the Warrior will be hosting their Third Annual Women Veteran Retreat, June 23-27 at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Retreat Center.

Starlyn Lara, Women Veterans Coordinator
starlyn laraStar works as the Women Veteran Coordinator at Swords to Plowshares. She served in the Army from 1995 to 2006, deployed to Iraq twice during her service so she understands the impact of combat.

Star graduated from Cal State East Bay in 2009 with a BA in Business Management with an emphasis in Organizational Communications. Follow her work on Facebook and Twitter.