What is a Hero? A Hero knows the danger and shows up anyway! A hero is a Leader! A Hero is passionate! A Hero does what it takes!

What does it take to have the Heart of a Fighter?

It isn’t easy to leave behind family no matter how close or how far they travel. It isn’t easy to leavePicture of heart made out of boxing gloves the comforts of home and with the love and support of your family. None the less, a hero leaves home with the courage in her heart to defend the Freedom of the United States and its constitution. The military oath reminds each and every military member that it is their duty to defend the Constitution from any enemy foreign or foe. She is now not just protecting her own children but the children of the United States.

I remember when I took that oath like it was yesterday, not over 40 years ago. There were tears in my eyes at the grander of commitment I was about to embark upon. I was a woman joining the Navy in 1976. At the time only 18% of the entire military forces were woman. There were only certain jobs earmarked for women, but my dad was a flyer and that was in my blood. He took me flying when I was 3 and since then I have been enamored with aviation. Despite the odds, I chose Air Crew in the Navy as my spot. This was not an easy time to be part of the navy for woman. There was no training for women so we had to learn on the job. I endured countless hours of harassment but my mission to serve my country never waivered.

After 12 years, I left the service to raise my family. It has been 20 years since I left the Navy – but once a heart of a fighter always a heart of a fighter. I wanted to give back, give back to our Warrior Sisters and founded Heart of a Fighter a 501(c)(3).

Many people have heard of wounded Warrior programs. What do you think of when you think of Wounded Warrior? A man, right? This organization is geared towards men with physical limitations and PTSD. Studies have shown that women are twice as likely to suffer from PTSD and are often misdiagnosed because their behaviors differ from that of men suffering from PTSD.

What are some of the differences of women transitioning out of the military and how is it different than their mail counterparts?

Woman in military

  • In addition to the trauma of combat, women are often victims of long term abuse that intensifies PTSD in women.
  • In the military women shifted from the nurtures, who embrace emotion to leaders who suppressed emotion. In some cases this can leave women with an identity crisis.
  • In some cases the VA does not offer women’s services at the local installation causing women to seek healthcare elsewhere.

If it takes 9 weeks (the length of boot camp) and sometimes up to a year in A school to reframe the mindset of a civilian to a soldier, how long do you think it takes to transition back into a world that has changed 100% since your left it?

There are programs run by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the military that offer some ideas of how to transition, but they are approximately 5 days in length. Do you see any little bit of a difference in transition out vs. transition in?

I can speak from experience, my transition was full of challenges, 12 years of flight crew and running a shift of sailors to finding my way as the low man on the totem pole with little to no respect or authority. How did I go from the top of the ladder and now have to start over? What language did these civilians speak? There were no short cuts in our sentences and they sure did not understand my intensity to get things done! There was pressure to fit in but I didn’t know how.

Women need their own programs to support their specific challenges. These women need an advocate in Washington and at home. Heart of a fighter is that advocate, educator and emotional support system.

Some of the programs we offer are:

  • Business Incubator that supports woman realize their dreams of creating an environment where they can hire other Warrior Sisters,
  • Resume Preparation to include their strengths that will equate to a civilian position,
  • PTSD and Suicide Counseling along with a 24 hours suicide hotline,
  • And much more..

Thank you for your help in funding our programs that support the women who participating in protecting not only their children but your children too.

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Suzanne was the first female flight crew in the US military. Suzanne now fights for the rights of her fellow service women in service, in transition and as civilians.