Recognizing and celebrating women veterans’ contributions to our country is important. But unfortunately many women veterans often feel invisible or unrecognized, because their contributions to the military may have been undervalued and underappreciated due to historical stereotypes and bias.
In her first resolution authored for reading on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives, state Rep. Erin Gamez chose to honor Veteran Females United, a volunteer-driven nonprofit whose mission it is to equip veterans who are women to build successful lives.
Established in 2013 as a university student organization, VFU incorporated in 2016, and also that year erected a statue of a female veteran in Veterans Park in Brownsville as a tribute to all women who have ever served in the U.S. armed forces.
From there VFU expanded its reach across the Rio Grande Valley and into Central Texas, offering outreach services such as peer-to-peer coaching, family wellness initiatives, and meetings that provide a safe space for veterans and their loved ones to share ideas and experiences, all with the aim of supporting and empowering women veterans.
According to the resolution, H.R. 563, which Gamez read aloud March 20 on the House floor with about a dozen VFU members looking on from the upper gallery, Texas is home to more than 190,000 female veterans, one of the largest populations in the United States.
The resolution noted that “women veterans often experience gender bias, and they face challenges in transitioning to civilian life and securing employment and access to health care.”
The resolution also stated that “VFU members demonstrate leadership, resilience, and a strong commitment to advocacy in behalf of their fellow veterans, and the organization has made a positive difference in the lives of many women who have bravely served their country” and resolved that the “House of Representatives of the 88th Texas Legislature hereby commend Veteran Females United for its exceptional support to the military community and extend to all those associated with VFU sincere best wishes for continued success with their important work.”
VFU President Angela R. Burton, an Army veteran and director of the U.S. Small Business Administration Lower Rio Grande Valley District, said Gamez invited the group to the Capitol about a month ago to witness the reading, which Burton described as a wonderful experience.
“To have been honored with a resolution on the Texas House floor was such an inspirational moment,” she said. “We felt an overwhelming sense of pride, but most of all, we felt heard. Recognizing and celebrating women veterans’ contributions to our country is important. But unfortunately many women veterans often feel invisible or unrecognized, because their contributions to the military may have been undervalued and underappreciated due to historical stereotypes and bias.”
Burton said that as Gamez began to read the resolution aloud, nearly every House member on the floor approached the podium to stand in solidarity, which Burton said was a heartwarming sight. In response, she called the members of her group to stand at attention and render salute from the upper gallery. All in all, it was quite a moment, Burton said, adding that she felt proud of Gamez for taking the trouble.
“She took the bull by the horns and invited us, and her staff was just so nice to us,” Burton said. “She knocked it out of the park.”
Gamez said she has “been so in awe and inspired” by VFU’s work in the community over the years and that the resolution was well-deserved.
“It was something that we’ve wanted do for a while, but mostly because the only reason I’m here is thanks to the many strong generations of women just like them, just like the VFU, who have served our families and our nation,” she said. “When I say it was my sincere joy to honor them on the floor of the Capitol, I mean it. … It was really just a dream and an honor to be able to honor them. I am tickled pink that they came up here.”
To find a comprehensive list of bills filed — and the status of those bills — visit MyRGV.com and click the 88th Texas Legislative Session tab, which has an interactive spreadsheet and a comprehensive list of AIM Media Texas’ legislative coverage.