A safe space and sisterhood for female veterans

WINC: For All Women Veterans, a Muskegon organization bringing awareness to issues facing women veterans nationwide while providing a safe space for engagement, will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. 

WINC recognizes the needs of all female veterans – emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual – and provides a welcome platform for female veterans to express that part of their identity, which Sequita Jackson, board member since WINC’s inception, says that they don’t do often.

“We pay attention when no one else pays attention,” Jackson says.

She has a passion for those who have served in the military, particularly women veterans. Besides herself, her dad, and brother, Jackson has two sisters who served, and when they returned home, they came back different people. 

“There is no connectivity,” she says. “When you get disconnected, where is the sisterhood? WINC is the sisterhood.”

Sequita Jackson has been a board member since WINC’s inception 10 years ago.

Recognizing their experiences

Founded by Army veteran Zaneta Adams, who now leads an online platform from Washington, WINC has grown to offer support via various services and advocacy efforts with its affiliates. Among the programs that WINC offers is the 24-hour online platform “Military Sister Initiative” and The HER Too Awards, a black-tie event and the organization’s biggest fundraiser.

Sera Misner-Castaneda, a Marine veteran who is vice president of the Muskegon group, says Adams’ experience in the military was intense, and she saw the need for female veterans to have this outlet and resources that support and recognize their experiences. Misner-Castaneda agrees that she was noticeably different when she returned from the service, with people feeling that she shows little to no emotion. “You come back with a really different and darker sense of humor,” she says.
Muskegon-based WINC: For All Women Veterans helps female vets with emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of their lives.
Shakia Davis, a veteran and WINC member, adds that she comes across as “hard” and without any emotion as well, saying that it stems from a combination of her tough upbringing, military experience, and current job working in corrections. “Going to the military was me getting away,” says Davis, the only daughter and oldest of six children of parents who were drug addicts. 

Fellow veteran and WINC member Jodie Diehl looked at the military as a chance to get away from the rural town she grew up in, where no one talked about or encouraged her to attend college. Wanting to make a difference, Diehl says that the military offered her that and many other opportunities. She says she loved being in the military and that she loves WINC for the “comradery and taking care of each other.”

Constant support

Weekly “Winddown Wednesdays” offers WINC participants and guests to come together for fellowship and to experience the comradery with others who can relate. Jackson says WINC also offers a sexual trauma retreat. Veterans who must be in counseling in order to participate due to the triggers that may come up. Experienced clinicians are available for this service.

Peer support is also continual, specifically for women veterans in Michigan through the collection of toiletries that are shipped to veterans hospitals, because most donations cater to the male veterans.

“We want them to know we care and that no one will ever be left behind,” says Jackson, who envisions WINC having a stronger presence and expanding to all states. “We got your six,” she adds, in reference to the military term for having someone’s back.

For more information about WINC and updates on how WINC will celebrate its anniversary, visit wincforall.com.
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Read more articles by Shanika P. Carter.