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  • Female service members can have unique difficulties reintegrating into society, and local groups want to help them out

  • Former Army Sgt. Mandy Croy figures she can accurately predict most reactions when she tells someone she served in the military.
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    • If you go
      What: "When Women Come Marching Home" film documentary, followed by a panel discussion.
      When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25
      Where: Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave.
      Register: ...
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      If you go
      What: "When Women Come Marching Home" film documentary, followed by a panel discussion.

      When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25

      Where: Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave.

      Register: The free event, which includes a light lunch, has limited seating. RSVP Cheryl Nicolay at Goodwill by Oct. 21 at 541-772-3000 or cheryl.nicolay@sogoodwill.org.

      Why: To help women veterans with their reintegration into civilian life.
  • Former Army Sgt. Mandy Croy figures she can accurately predict most reactions when she tells someone she served in the military.
    "When you tell people you are a female vet, the first thing they think is you were a victim," the Afghanistan war veteran said.
    "When men say they served their country, "the response is usually, 'Thank you very much.'
    "As a woman vet, I face a lot of stigmatization," she added. "They think ... you must have gotten sexually harassed or something, that you were never an equal."
    But Croy, 31, who isn't one to take prisoners, quickly sets them straight.
    "I tell them, yes, there were times when I was not an equal," said the former medic. "But there were also times when I was, when they were my brothers. They took care of me, and I took care of them. The good times far outweighed the bad times."
    She will be one of four panelists discussing issues facing women veterans and reintegration into the civilian world on Friday, Oct. 25, in the Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave.
    Joining her on the panel will be her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Croy, along with fellow women veterans Kara Stiles and Erika Yohner.
    The panel discussion will immediately follow the showing of the documentary film "When Women Come Marching Home." The free event begins at 11:30 a.m.
    The hosts are Goodwill Industries of Southern Oregon, Rogue Community College and Rogue Valley Veterans and Community Outreach.
    The event is sponsored by the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians along with radio stations Q100.3 and AM 1440 KMED.
    The event's mission is to help women veterans and their families, said Betty Welden, vice president of mission services for Goodwill Industries of Southern Oregon.
    "We want to help them get jobs, housing and other resources," Welden said. "A lot of women vets we run into don't want to let you know they are veterans. It is a stigma for some. A lot of them just want to move on."
    However, many have the same issues faced by their male counterparts, she said.
    "We are focusing on the women," Welden said. "We want them to come in and know there are other women vets in the area. Many of them isolate themselves. We want them to know there is support for women veterans out there."
    Event organizer Larry Slessler of Medford, who received a Bronze Star in Vietnam while serving as an Air Force officer, echoed similar sentiments.
    "From my standpoint, they do tend to isolate themselves," Slessler said. "I want to see people like Mandy and other women veterans get all the recognition that men have historically received."
    Croy, who joined the Army in 2008, completed her hitch a year ago this month. Throughout 2010, she was based at Camp Alamo in Kabul.
    "I was a female medic attached to an infantry unit," said the former nurse. "A lot of the stigmatization came from being in the infantry ... 'I'm a woman. I can't carry as much. I can't keep up. I'll be offended at everything we do.' "
    She put male soldiers in two different categories. One group treated her with respect; just another soldier doing her job, she said.
    "Then you had those guys who were like, 'There is a piece of' you know what," she said, although noting that was only a few individuals.
    Within 24 hours of her arrival in the unit, she said she set three male soldiers straight when it came to their unprofessional behavior.
    "I had to come right at it from the get-go," she said. "When you start with a bunch of males, you have to assert who you are. Are you going to be weak? Or are you going to be the strong female who they will stand shoulder to shoulder with?"
    Croy, whose job was to serve female soldiers from other nations in the Muslim culture, chose the latter.
    "It's important that women stand shoulder to shoulder," she said. "We are all in the same army. We are working together. If we are not seen as equals, that makes it extremely hard."
    By the end of her year tour, she had established that equality, she said.
    The point, she stressed, is that a woman in uniform is there to be a battle buddy, one who works side by side with every soldier, regardless of gender.
    "I got to train hundreds — Mongolian, British, French — on combat lifesaver skills," she said. "I loved it. I showed them what to do in the case of an emergency while my guys were out training the army."
    She was injured in Afghanistan while helping train foreign troops.
    "My hip was pulled out of its socket," she said, noting she has since had hip surgery but is still struggling to regain full mobility.
    While in Afghanistan, a mortar round would periodically be fired at the base, adding to the stress, she said.
    After Croy arrived back in the States at the end of 2010 following a year in Afghanistan, she followed in the footsteps of a long line of male war veterans before her.
    "To be honest, when I came back from deployment, I drank a lot," said the Medford native. "It was during that R&R (rest and relaxation) time they gave us. I didn't have any responsibilities and I could process things a little more."
    After a month of drinking, she stopped and went to work as a medic for an army company stateside until she was discharged. Keeping busy helped with her adjustment, she said.
    Now a homemaker, she and her husband, a local Army recruiter whom she met in Afghanistan, have a 145-pound Irish wolfhound named Abraham.
    "He and Sampson, our little dog, are my home companions when I'm having a rough day," she said.
    "I still have night terrors every now and then," she added. "I still get really suspicious. Check all the doors and all the windows. And I don't really do crowds."
    But she will tell you her reaction is not unlike that experienced by countless male veterans who have served in harm's way.
    Reach Mail Tribune reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or pfattig@mailtribune.com.
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