What: AmVets Post 1912 meetings
When: 6 p.m. the third Friday of each month
Where: Sycamore Community Center, 1051 Sycamore St., Farmington
More info: Call 505-326-5312.
For help 24 hours a day, text a confidential message to 838255 or call the Veteran Crisis Hotline toll-free at 1-800-273-8255, press 1.
FARMINGTON — While women have served alongside their male counterpart in every war since World War I, getting female veterans to reach out and receive benefits and support is an ongoing challenge.
New Mexico has 22,324 female veterans, which is about 13 percent of the state's veterans. According to the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services, women are now the fastest-growing subgroup of the U.S. veteran population. The number of women veterans is expected to increase dramatically in the next 10 years as Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom wind down in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More and more, women veterans are working together to assist each other through programs, benefits and social events.
In 2006, along with some other local women veterans, Beverly Charley helped establish an all-women warriors post, AmVets Post 1912, in Farmington.
She currently works to help place local veterans in sustainable jobs at New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions in Farmington. Charley spent more than 14 years in the Army, deployed four times to Somalia, Haiti and Iraq. She retired in 2005.
"When I started out, I had PTSD and tried to do everything on my own, but I hit a brick wall," Charley said. "I had a daughter to support. Finally, I connected with other women warriors at a women's conference, and that made a huge difference. I went from confusion and struggle to a place of support and knowing I could help others, too."
She says female veterans share similar experiences.
"The realization that you are not just looking for help but finding ways to help others is amazing," she said. "We need to stand together."
To provide resources for female veterans, Charley often coordinates with Judy Quintana, president of Women Veterans of New Mexico, an Albuquerque-based organization serves and advocates women veterans throughout the state.
Quintana, who served in the Air Force for 23 years and retired in 2011, helps veterans secure medical care, housing and job training.
Often, she is on her cell phone, texting back and forth between the women veterans she supports. Often, she is helping four or five at a time.
"The phone program, called Safelink, gets phones into the hands of veterans who can be homeless and have no other lifeline of support," she said. "It is one of the many ways with the support of multiple agencies that we work to reach out to our veterans."
The cellphones allow for 250 minutes of calling and texting, which Quintana sees as a way to encourage more contact.
While Post 1912 doesn't have a permanent place to meet, they have monthly meetings. The post even added its first male member recently, a husband of one of the women warriors.
The post needs at least 10 active members to continue. Charley said the group is at 12.
"Many have moved away because of the economy, but we're always looking to find more," she said. "Women are veterans, too."