New nonprofit organization helps women veterans make their unique transition back to civilian life.
Longwood resident Ruth Osborne remembers the exact time in her youth when she realized she wanted to be a Marine. She was sitting at a restaurant having lunch and watched a man walk by wearing his iconic Dress Blues Marine uniform.
“It takes your breath away – I knew I wanted to wear a powerful outfit like that one day,” Ruth recalls.
Upon high-school graduation, Ruth joined the Marines and headed to boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina, and then to Camp Pendleton in California. During her tour of duty, Ruth lived in more than 10 different states, including Hawaii, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, and even in Washington, D.C., while serving a total of 17 years (eight years active duty, three years active reserves, and six years individual ready reserves).
Although she thoroughly enjoyed serving our nation as a Marine, meeting lifelong friends, and living in different parts of the country, Ruth’s plans for a future in the military began to change after having children. One day, before being deployed overseas to enter the first Gulf War, she took her two daughters (at the time) with her to the airport and was preparing to say her goodbyes.
“My little girls were all dressed up, and I was wearing my uniform, when all of a sudden my oldest daughter took off running toward me and said, ‘Mommy, please come home!’” Ruth remembers.
Right at that moment, Ruth decided to make a career change. She eventually went off active duty and headed back home to Illinois.
Although she knew she made the right decision, Ruth says she misses the comfort and camaraderie that was easily found in the military, and it was difficult to adjust to her new life as a civilian.
“In the Marines, it didn’t matter where you were stationed, you always knew somebody,” says Ruth.
“There was already a group you were immediately a part of. That’s what I miss the most.”
And Ruth knows she’s not alone. She has met many women veterans who share similar stories of the challenges they’ve faced when transitioning to civilian life.
Fortunately for Ruth, who earned a degree in accounting during her last two years of active duty, finding a job came easily. She worked and lived in Portland, Oregon, for 14 years before deciding to call Florida home in 2016 and open her own accounting firm.
Ruth’s passion for helping women veterans never wavered. She started a meetup group for women veterans here in Florida and eventually founded her nonprofit organization, Women Veterans Helping Veteran Women.
“Women are just one of those demographics that get so lost when they get out of the military,” Ruth says. “I feel that there is a large disconnect between the times where women are discharged from the military to when they begin life as a civilian.”
And that’s what Ruth hopes to change.
Ruth has met and taken the time to get to know many women veterans like herself, hear their stories, share military experiences, and listen to the familiar challenges they face.
“I am so interested in and enjoy meeting other women veterans,” says Ruth. “I really want to give back, to do something, and to help make a difference for these women. It’s a different world when it comes to the veteran community here in Florida. I feel like I can plug back in here.”
Although her organization is relatively new, Ruth’s goal is to start small by helping one woman at a time and establish a support network for women veterans. She has created a website and has gathered fellow friends and women veterans to help offer services such as counseling and outreach.
“I want to be a little more assertive in helping,” Ruth says. “I want to be that link for people that helps them set up a new business, buy a new home, or helps them find childcare if they have a job interview.”
The network of women veterans Ruth has built proves that no one who serves is ever alone. With her organization, Ruth is optimistic that more women can once again feel a sense of support and camaraderie.
“Just to have someone sit with you and say, ‘Wow, I did that, too,’ makes such a difference,” says Ruth.
To find out more about Women Veterans Helping Veteran Women, visit WVHVW.org.
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