DANVILLE — When Mickensy Ellis wears her badge at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System, the veterans know she’s one of them. The identification badge says: I am a veteran.
It doesn’t matter that she’s a woman — they all share a common bond.
“It carries weight with the other veterans. They warm up,” said Ellis, who works as a psychology technician at the VA.
Ellis is among the growing number of female veterans. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the current projected percentage of U.S. veterans who are women is more than 8 percent. The figure was 4 percent in 1988.
With more women serving in the military, agencies such as the VA and Danville Area Community College are making sure they have services to meet women’s needs.
Brittany Trabaris, program manager of the Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn office at the VA, said she’s seeing more female veterans.
In Fiscal Year 2012 (October 2011 to September 2012), the Illiana system served a total of 2,952 OEF/OIF/OND veterans in Danville and the five outpatient clinics. During that time, 256 women veterans used its services.
That’s an increase from the 165 women who were treated the previous fiscal year. About 8.6 percent the OEF/OIF/OND veterans served by the office in Fiscal Year 2011 were females.
Women’s role in the military has been changing during the years, Trabaris said, and they now face the same dangers as their male counterparts.
Ellis, 32, joined the Army in November 2008, and was deployed to Iraq in January 2011 for a year. As a behavioral health specialist, she was in charge of two clinics — one for coalition forces and another for the Iraqi detainees.
When she returned last December, she admitted, “I felt lost in the system at first.” She began using the services of the Women Veterans Health Program and also the OEF/OIF/OND program.