Combat Female Veterans Families (CFVF) United is a 501 (c)(3) Non-Profit Organization.
CFVF United provides transition services to Combat Female Veterans (CFVs) and their families, supporting life after war. We accomplish this by:
- Supporting the Voices of Combat Female Veterans and Their Families – at the local, state, and national levels
- Addressing the Unique and Multi-layered Post-Deployment Obstacles they face as Military Females
- Connecting each of them with the Vital Resources and Support Structures necessary to Ensure Their Healthy Returns to the Civilian World
Our Vision at CFVF United
CFVF United seeks to engage the Combat Female Veterans of North Carolina, as well as deployed combat females preparing for their returns home to North Carolina. With focus on education, support, and advocacy, CFVF United will act as a conduit between female military heroes and the vital resources they need to ensure long, healthy, and fulfilling lives after war.
At CFVF United, we honor the efforts of existing Veterans’ services and strive to partner in our ventures to serve our Veteran community. At the same time, we recognize the areas in which, as a nation, as sisters and brothers in service to others, we can and should collectively improve when it comes to lifting-up and protecting this unique and highly-valued sector of our population.
Combat Female Veterans
The term Combat Female Veterans, as used by CFVF United, refers to all female members of the United States Armed Forces who have served in hostile territories during periods of war, regardless of role.
Since America’s founding, women have served alongside their male counterparts in war environments, with their involvement and participation levels progressing incrementally from war to war. As early as the American Revolution, women – often by necessity – moved with soldiers, battlefield to battlefield, serving their country as nurses, laundresses, and cooks. By WWII, American women could be found working as pilots, hospital administrators, nurses, mechanics, and ambulance drivers. History records some 7,000 women as having been deployed to serve during the Vietnam War, more than 40,000 women served in combat zones during the Gulf War, and an estimated 150,000 American women were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan between the years 2001 and 2012. Today, the number of combat female Veterans has reached the highest in U.S. military history and, now that ban has been lifted on women in previously-restricted combat roles, these numbers stand to climb. (Women currently account for 15% of active service members, 20% of new military recruits, and according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, “By 2035, [women] are projected to make up 15 percent of all living Veterans.”)
The Personal Cost of War
With war, of course, comes hardship. The struggles faced by our combat heroes as they return home are many, and no Veteran – regardless of gender, rank, or position – is immune. These challenges include, but are not limited to, combat-related illness (such as Gulf War Syndrome and infectious disease associated with foreign deployment), physical injury (up to and including permanent disability), traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress (PTSD), obstacles to securing and maintaining employment, educational barriers, drug and alcohol dependency, insecurity surrounding family re-integration, anger management issues, securing affordable housing, identifying and acquiring Veteran benefits, and for far too many, coping with the residual effects of sexual trauma (as reported across genders).
It’s very important to note here that challenges such as these rarely exist in vacuums. The personal cost of war is multi-faceted, and combat Veterans frequently present with a complex list of symptoms and realities that they’re left to overcome as they transition out of the military.
So, What Makes the Experience of a Combat Female Unique?
Studies show that women in combat experience the same general set of challenges as their male peers. However, they tend to experience war in different ways. For instance, women in combat report higher instances of military sexual trauma (MST), post-deployment depression, and PTSD resulting from sexual trauma (vs. injury) than do combat men. To add some perspective, military women deployed during wartime report experiencing incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault at a significantly higher rate than non-deployed military women. While data varies, some suggest that as many as two in every five combat females experience sexual trauma while serving, to include rape. As staggering as that is, the Department of Defense estimates that as many as 86.5% of violent sexual crimes are never even reported!
By now, most Americans are aware of a 2012 study released by the Department of Veterans Affairs that estimated the number of deaths by suicide among United States Veterans to be, roughly, 22 lives per day. (More recent studies indicate a slight drop, putting the numbers closer to 20 lives per day.) These numbers – these losses – are alarming enough. But, what many don’t realize is that the suicide rate among female Veterans is increasing at a rate much greater than the rate of suicides among males.
Adam Linehan, a writer and former combat medic who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, goes as far as to say that female Veterans are 2-5 times more likely to take their own lives than are women who never serve. Exacerbating that reality is the disparity between women who seek-out and receive assistance versus those who don’t. Lineman states that, “The suicide rate among female veterans who use VA services has increased by 4.6%. While that’s less than half the rate among males, the suicide rate among those who don’t use those services has risen by 98%.” (http://taskandpurpose.com/suicide-rate-among-female-veterans-rise-experts-no-idea/) Therein lies our reality… Our female warriors are in crisis! As a nation, we’re failing our Combat Female heroes!
Despite the increasing presence of women in war environments and despite studies confirming gender disparities among combat Veterans, there’s still much work to be done to fully understand the needs of returning combat females, as well as the reasons we’re losing so many to suicide. And, it is the position of CFVF United that too little is being done to provide services geared toward identifying and meeting those needs. CFVF United seeks to do just that.