I have witnessed firsthand the sheer and unfiltered joy that a woman who has been to hell and back can express when she feels pretty. I've seen the glow that comes with the understanding that her service to America is acknowledged and appreciated. To celebrate Veteran's Day, several women veterans were pampered with new hairstyles and makeup applied to accentuate their gorgeous eyes and brilliant smiles at the special Veteran's Day Military Makeover event hosted by Shining Service Worldwide.
Shining Service was founded by post-50 former Wall Street executive Linda Franklin. Linda is better known right now as the woman who started "The Real Cougar Woman" blog and website a few years ago as a way to give women the tools to feel empowered, not realizing her blogs were a hit with women in the military, too. Turns out, quite a few military women in active duty were reading her blog every day, leaving comments on the site, thanking Linda for keeping their spirits up. They even called themselves "Combat Cougars." Seeing an opportunity to help women in the military -- including those in active duty, veterans, military wives and mothers -- Linda started Shining Services specifically to support the reintegration of military women back to civilian life with a multitude of programs and events, including the extremely popular Makeover Missions, all of which take place in high end salons which donate the time and services of their staff to make these brave women feel special and beautiful.
There are myriad challenges women, specifically, can face when they make the transition from 'woman in uniform' to 'veteran'... including unemployment and a high incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Defense Department found that 1 in 3 women in the military have been victims of sexual assault or rape. Marcia Yerman wrote in a Huffington Post blog:
For women in the military who have been raped, the rate of PTSD is higher than for men who have been in active combat. According to Helen Benedict, author of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, 40 percent of homeless female veterans were raped while serving and as a result, "can't hold their lives together."
It's a daunting task, but Linda Franklin is determined to give these women the tools and encouragement they need to feel good about themselves, the first step toward reintegrating into civilian life, which includes looking for jobs and housing, and learning to cope with the psychological setbacks that can frequently occur. The unique "The Power of Ten Life Skills Program" is three-month mentoring program offered by Shining Services designed to help women veterans with jobs, health and financial management, and a house in Brooklyn is being renovated to serve as a transitional home for women veterans (and their children) until they can find jobs and start their new lives outside the military.
Helping a woman re-connect with her feminine power is just as important, however, especially as a tool to build self-esteem and confidence. And giving these women, who are so incredibly deserving of our thanks and appreciation, a day of beauty and pampering is powerful, indeed.
Here I am with a woman vet who served in Afghanistan at the Veteran's Day Makeover event at the W Hotel at Times Square in New York City.
Mary was absolutely glowing (as were all the other women) after Michael Duenas, founder of Hair Room Service styled her hair and Ashleigh B. Ciucci (both of whom usually work with visiting dignitaries and stars who are staying in NYC hotels, but graciously donated their time and skills for this lovely event) gave her a whole new look with the magic of makeup. Participants had photos taken by professional photographer Rose Callahan (who also donated her time and expertise for this worthy cause) as a reminder of how truly beautiful they are.
Each woman I met at the event, many of whom were mothers and grandmothers, told me they had served in the military for over 20 years -- including stints in some of the most dangerous places in the world -- and now it was time for them to forge new lives.
This was a beautiful start.
I salute you, women in the military, veterans, wives, mothers, girlfriends and daughters. We all salute and thank you. Happy Veteran's Day!
For more information on Shining Services Worldwide, click here.
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