March is Women’s History
Month and Hope For The Warriors® honored our women warriors with a four-day
Winter Retreat in Woodstock, Vermont. 
Participants of the retreat braved skiing and snowboarding at Killington
Mountain, were pampered at a local spa and enjoyed team-building activities
such as art therapy, cooking, an exploration walk, and thoughtful group
discussions.  A diverse group of eight
post-9/11 women veterans and reservists from all over the
country attended the retreat.  These women represented different
military branches, units, ranks, and deployment histories.  Despite their differences, unifying
experiences connected them instantly – a few women even discovered that they
were deployed to the same location in Iraq at the same time!  Also on the retreat were three Hope For The
Warriors® staff (including one woman veteran peer mentor) and a Marine Corps
veteran and her partner, who generously donated the use of their home for this
group adventure.
It was the first time
stepping in ski boots for nearly all of the women veterans and it proved to be
an exciting, fun, and challenging experience. 
The women’s qualities of strength, perseverance, and mutual support were
evident throughout the day on the mountain. 
They challenged themselves and overcame fears through collaborative
efforts and encouragement of one another. 
This solidarity and support were not only apparent in the challenge of
conquering the mountain, but also in the way the women, who began the trip as
strangers, developed genuine bonds with each other throughout the
weekend.  They opened up to one another
about military experiences, both positive and negative, and found they could
relate in meaningful ways.  Some women
shared challenges that still feel raw and open, some shared experiences and
feelings that they had kept to themselves for years.  Those who had experienced similar events
provided validation, understanding, and empowerment.   The women
walked away from these discussions with a newfound sense of hope and healing
through the power of the group.  SFC Angela
Green, US Army Reserve, shared the following about her experience on the
retreat:
“[I valued] meeting new and
wonderful people. Women from all branches, all backgrounds and all over the US
came together as if we already knew one another.  [Being with the other women veterans was] relatable and empowering.  It allowed
women to be women, to be themselves… There’s just so much that can’t be
explained and understood by male veterans. Women are challenged (not always in
a good way) daily in the Military. We explore events and start discussions that
often stir up arguments, denial, disbelief, complete ignorance and or name
calling.  In life sometimes you need validation…
Meeting ladies who have been there, been through similar experiences… [Sharing] what they are doing now helps to put things in perspective. Life is far from
perfect but it’s a blessing to know you have support, one that doesn’t [involve] medication or a counselor.  I will
remember to stay strong and carry my head high… I have a lot to be thankful
and happy about. I will not let life’s disappointments or the unknown overtake
me.”

Hope For The Warriors® first
women veterans retreat proved to be an exceptional experience.  By focusing on team-building adventures,
honoring strengths, and exploring shared experiences, this retreat created an
opportunity for women veterans to connect as a community and grow both as individuals and a group.  
For Hope For
The Warriors®, honoring our women veterans does not stop after Women’s History
Month.  In fact, our Women Veterans
Initiative continues to put on monthly events for our women warriors, including
local activities, community service opportunities, professional development
events, and future retreats.  Next month,
Hope For The Warriors® Women Veterans Initiative will again have a team for New
York Cares Day Spring!  For more
information or to sign up for programming, please contact Andrea Cilento at acilento@hopeforthewarriors.org.