Military women share their experiences

The Jambar’s logo

By Samantha Smith

For Women’s History Month, Youngstown State University’s Office of Veterans Affairs spoke about women in the military and female veterans shared their experiences.

Jaesson Lujan, coordinator of Veterans Affairs, explained what the main goal for the office is.

“The Veterans Resources Center enhances the academic, professional and individual success of veterans, service members and their families,” he said. “We’re steadfastly committed to supporting our military community in all areas of higher education to include military education benefits, academic success, graduation, career and professional development and overall well-being.”

Lujan explained that out of the six military branches, the Air Force has the highest number of women.

“The Air Force has the highest proportion of females — they’re about 21%,” he said. “That’s about 4 to 5 points higher than the rest of the other branches. It’s usually about 17% comprised of women.”

In statistics provided by the Office of Veteran Affairs, it is stated that female veterans attain their degrees at higher rates than male veterans. Lujan explained why he believes this to be true.

“Women have historically been at a disadvantage in the military. Just to gain entry into the military and to try to climb up the ranks, they probably had to fight a little bit harder,” he said. “I think that that level of  resiliency is kind of baked into their DNA through military service and I think that that just extends on and into their academic pursuits and pretty much everything else in life.”

Areli Davis, a senior majoring in construction engineering technology, detailed her time in the Marine Corps.

“It was a lot of work to do. It was very difficult. Getting there was probably the worst of it, but once I was in, I didn’t want to leave. Definitely a second family,” she said.

Jayna Vilsack, a senior majoring in social work, detailed her experience with the Army Reserves.

“I was in a long time ago. I went in ’97, so it was a lot different than what it is now,” she said. “I would say it was a little bit tough at times, but it wasn’t terrible. I had a good group of people in my basic training and all that with me and [they] welcomed me pretty well.”

Shaiyla Hakeem, a graduate student majoring in clinical health counseling, explained what it is like managing school and being in the Army Reserves.

“Since I started school, I’ve always been involved with the reserves. It’s hard to manage civilian life and military life,” she said.

Lujan detailed why he thinks it’s important to see more women in the military and promote the growth in numbers.

“Our society has come a long way. Women have historically been kind of pigeonholed and ushered into certain segments, certain jobs,” he said. “That’s unfair and you don’t want to do that to anybody. It’s good that women are being able to broaden their horizons, go do things that they previously weren’t allowed to do.”

For more information about the Office of Veteran Affairs, visit its building on Wick Avenue or check out its website at