With more than 180,000 the Lone Star State has the largest population of Women Veterans in the nation; however, according to a Texas Veterans Commission’s website, many Women Veterans, “continue to face significant barriers and challenges in accessing necessary health care and other services, while experiencing a lack of recognition unlike their male counterparts.” In an attempt to help raise more awareness of such challenges and concerns facing Women Veterans, two VA employees from VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB) were selected to be part of a special photo project.
Laura B. Vela a decision support system program analyst, and VA Voluntary Service Specialist Lilia A. Garcia were among the 30 Texan Women Veterans who were recently featured in the “I Am Not Invisible” photo exhibit at the Texas Capitol building, in Austin. The exhibit was open to the public during the last weekend of March in honor of Women’s History Month.
The exhibit is part of a national campaign that originally developed with the first “I Am Not Invisible” photo project in Oregon, which aims to increase awareness and dialogue about Women Veterans, and open viewers’ eyes to the myriad of contributions, needs and experiences of women who have served in the U.S. armed forces.
Vela said the project serves as a testament to the fact that Women Veterans continue to serve their country in many ways long after their military service has ended.
“Too many people often forget or do not realize we women are Veterans too,” said Vela who served as an Army medical lab technician from 2006 to 2010. “We are strong leaders, advocates, nurturers and professionals. I am proud to say I’m a Veteran and I am not invisible.”
The sentiment and importance of the project was equally shared by her fellow VA coworker and friend.
“I felt honored to have been selected from all the participants who submitted their names,” said Retired Gunnery Sgt. Garcia. “It is important that we continue to raise awareness with projects like this one because it helps bring Women Veterans together and reminds them that they are not alone. There are services for us after the military and they should not to be afraid to seek help because like the male Veterans they’ve served alongside with they have earned it too.”
The former gunny and specialist had their photos taken on Jan. 10 of this year at the VA outpatient clinic in Austin.
Both ladies added that this project was a wonderful experience because they were able to meet several females Veterans from different generations, who served in different branches.
“We met ladies who served in World War II, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and more recent conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Garcia. “We got to sit and talk. We shared experiences and provided information that others may not have been aware of and could benefit from.”
The black and white images were captured by VA photographer Eugene Russell , who has served as the primary photographer for the secretary of the VA during significant events and documented leadership activities for a variety of uses.
Vela and Garcia’s portraits along with the 28 other Women Veterans from Texas can be seen by using the web links below for the Texas Veterans Commission or the photo album created on the Facebook site for the VA’s Center for Women Veterans.
Author’s note: This year’s Women’s History Month is over; however, the Women Veterans of our nation are worthy of recognition all year round. You can continue to honor their service and sacrifices by nominating them to be a Veteran of the Day.
Search, “Nominate Veteran of the Day” using your web browser for more information, or visit
Veterans do not need to meet any other criteria other than having honorably served their country.
Help us ensure the voices of Women Veterans are heard and their stories are recognized as an integral part of American history.