State’s First Women Veterans Day Has Roots With Dallas Politician, Entrepreneurs

BY HEATHER NOEL • JUN 12, 2018

Texas has the largest population of female veterans than any other state and legislation to designate the first day honoring their service started in Dallas.

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If there’s anything Marija Roberson learned from her seven years in the military, it’s how to be adaptable.

“Don’t stop, keep pushing, and identify ways to make it better with limited resources,” Roberson says.

The instilled lessons from her strategic planning and operations management work with the U.S. Air Force and Army, have carried over into civilian life.

And, now as an entrepreneur, the Little Elm resident is putting that knowledge into Lean Evolution, a process improvement consulting and training firm launching later this summer.

“Don’t stop, keep pushing, and identify ways to make it better with limited resources.”

Marija Roberson

She always knew she wanted to be a business owner, but for Navy veteran Cristie Campo it took some major life changes and multiple jobs before she figured out paving her own career was right for her.

Through her Blue Dragonfly Creative Agency, Campo uses her background in graphic design to develop websites, logos, and other materials for nonprofits, for-profits, and doctors offices alike. Recently, the Gulf War medic lent her design expertise to develop the logo and website for the first Women Veterans Day in Texas.

At more than 177,000, Texas has the largest population of female veterans overall in the country — a figure that wasn’t lost on State Rep. Victoria Neave of Dallas.

She authored legislation last year to make June 12 Women Veterans Day. The date is a nod back to the passage of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which President Harry S. Truman signed into law on June 12, 1948. The act permitted women to serve as permanent, regular members of the U.S. armed forces. Women, of course, have been serving in the military in some capacity dating back to the beginnings of the nation’s military.

TEXAS CELEBRATES FIRST WOMEN VETERANS DAY

In 2017, Texas Senate Bill 805 officially designated June 12 as a statewide day to honor female military veterans. Tuesday will be the first time Women Veterans Day is observed.

“It means a lot to me as a veteran especially being a second generation Army vet,” Roberson said. “[Knowing that my mom] and other female veterans are being recognized for all their hard work and dedication. They paved the way for me and others within my shoes.”

From Austin and Houston to Lubbock and Killeen, groups have planned special events to celebrate.

“We have a very long and proud history of serving our country, but we also have some very unique struggles that are not identified, that are not talked about.”
VR Small

“We’re very excited that cities all across Texas are honoring their women veterans. It’s amazing to see how the legislation has come to life,” Neave said.

In Dallas, Neave teamed with the Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center, a forthcoming facility in south Dallas to help female veteran entrepreneurs grow their small businesses. 

This morning, an event in the Dallas City Hall Flag Room recognized women veterans and this evening, there will be a reception for women veterans and their families at the VFW 6796 in Dallas featuring U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Rebecca Leal. Little Elm and Lake Worth hosted events last week.

“We have a very long and proud history of serving our country, but we also have some very unique struggles that are not identified, that are not talked about,” said VR Small, executive director of the Enterprise Center.

Small was one of many female veterans across the state who spoke out in favor of the bill last year. The six-year Navy veteran has experienced first hand how people don’t immediately think of women serving in the military.

“I’ve been out with my friends, got my Navy veteran shirt on, and If we’re with the guys, they’ll shake all the guys hands and act like we’re their wives or girlfriends. The guys will have to say, ‘oh no, they served, too,’” Small said.

Women Veterans Day is the time to honor female veterans for their service and share their untold stories, she said. Neave also hopes the day can open dialogue on issues that women face in the military such as sexual assault and an increased likelihood of homelessness after they serve.

ENTERPRISE CENTER FOR FEMALE VETREPRENEURS COMING THIS FALL

For Small, being involved with Women Veterans Day fits right in with the work she’s doing to support female veterans with the Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center.

“We believe in supporting women veterans; we believe in this opportunity for our history to be recognized and discussed,” Small said.

Between 2007 to 2012, the number of female veteran-owned businesses in the U.S. increased from 4 percent of all veteran-owned firms to 15.2 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Survey of Business Owners. In that latest Census business survey, Texas had one of the highest number of so-called vetrepreneurs — both female and male — placing second to California.

“Our program is meant to be the bridge between when they startup and then getting to that next level of being that six-figure company.”

VR Small

The enterprise center will be a pilot facility centralizing resources for female veteran entrepreneurs with coworking, a conference center, and coffee and cafe lounge. It joins other North Texas programs oriented toward veteran entrepreneurs such as Momentum Texas and Honor Courage Commitment, through which Roberson and Campo have received training.

The Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center is expected to be in full operation by this fall. It will focus efforts on helping women grow their businesses.

“Our program is meant to be the bridge between when they startup and then getting to that next level of being that six-figure company,” said Small, who has a background in organizational development and starting her own ventures.

In the future, Small hopes the model can be replicated across the state and the U.S.

“We want to make sure that once we produce this model, we show how it works, we show that we can help these women really scale and keep their businesses alive, then we want to be able to replicate that in other areas where the need is represented,” Small said.