The fifth annual Jacksonville Women Veterans Recognition Week began Sunday, March 9. Daily events range from a recognition gala to conversations about challenges like homelessness.
Most of the events are organized by the Northeast Florida Women Veterans Association in conjunction with other nonprofits.
Women Veterans CEO Dee Quaranta, a 20-year Air Force Veteran, said her organization provides services to female veterans and advocates for them because, as she points out, they have different needs from men in uniform.
“I am seeing the clients that come in — many of them have experienced military sexual trauma, and so they’re dealing with a lot of mental health issues,” she said.
Quaranta said their experiences include rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment, resulting in diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, hypertension or depression.
Northeast Florida is home to somewhere between 15,000 and 16,000 female vets.
“Actually Duval County has the largest population of women veterans in the state,” she said.
A conversation Monday evening will focus on homelessness among women veterans.
“The question is, ‘What percentage is being used specifically for our women veterans?’ because we find there’s a dorm for men veterans, but there’s not one for women because of the demand,” Quaranta said.
She said women may be outnumbered by men in the military, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need assistance.
“A lot of times they will sleep in their cars, they will sofa surf before they will come in and get help from an agency, especially if they have children, because there’s a fear that maybe their children will be taken from them,” she said.
Monday’s conversation at WJCT Studios at 100 Festival Park Ave. will bring female vets and service agencies together so the two can hear from each other, she said.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently designated the week of March 11-17 as Women Veterans Recognition Week in Florida. Quaranta’s nonprofit is working with Congress to get the week recognized nationally.
See the full schedule of Jacksonville’s Women Veterans recognition week events here.