Imagine you are a woman and you pull your truck into a parking lot at a local store. Your truck has a Purple Heart designation on the license plate. As you step out with your prosthetic limb, a stranger approaches you and says, “Please thank your husband for his service.”
Or imagine you are a woman, and you and your husband arrive at the local VA Clinic for services and the person behind the counter assumes that your husband is the veteran and you are the spouse.
These are just a few examples of the stories I heard last night at the “I Am Not Invisible” Opening Reception. We have 181,402 women veterans in the state of Texas, but it is a common occurrence for their service to be ignored or dismissed, not only externally, but internally as well. Many women veterans do not identify as “veterans” and less than 20 percent of Texas women veterans seek benefits and services that they have earned.
That is why this exhibition is a powerful and important reminder to our community that we need to recognize the women who served our country in the military. “I Am Not Invisible” is a statewide outreach and public awareness campaign the Texas Veterans Commission has embarked on in collaboration with the Governor’s Commission for Women, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Art Spark Texas.
The campaign consists of 30 portraits of women veterans from across Texas and representing service from World War II to Afghanistan.
In conjunction with the portrait exhibit, we had the pleasure of showcasing a small exhibition of photographs from the National Women Airforce Service Pilots WWII Museum, also known as the WASP Museum, located in Sweetwater, Texas.
Over 1,000 women were trained as pilots during WWII. These women flew over 60 million miles and ferried 77 types of aircraft.
Both exhibitions are currently on view at the Texas State Capitol in the North Gallery through the end of March. The “I Am Not Invisible” project will be a traveling exhibition, so future locations will be announced. To see more of the WASP exhibit, take a road trip to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, you won’t be disappointed.
So the next time you see a man wearing his veteran t-shirt or ball cap and you thank him for his service, be sure to notice his wife standing next to him and ask, “Did you serve too?” Don’t let the service of our women veterans fade into the sunset.
Art Spark Texas