First Lady Michelle Obama honored female veterans today at the annual Women’s History Month reception in Washington, D.C.
At the reception, hosted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Obama urged female veterans to tell their story. "All of you learned how to build a team and lead others under pressure, and complete any mission in front of you no matter what it takes,” she said. “See, that’s why it’s important that you tell your own stories. … Our girls, our daughters and granddaughters, need to hear them."
Kate Hoit was one of the female veterans who attended the reception. At 17, Hoit knew she wanted to join the U.S. Army Reserve. She went on to serve for eight years, spending time in Iraq as an Army photojournalist, where she shared soldiers’ experiences and contributed to her base’s newspaper.
Back home, when she and a few male Army friends went to their local Veterans of Foreign Wars office to sign up for membership, Hoit was mistaken for a military spouse.
“I was pulled aside and asked if I needed the military spouse application,” she recalled in an interview with ABC News. “I asked why, and they said, ‘You know, you’re a younger woman.’”
She added: "They thought I was maybe there with my spouse."
The episode was telling of a larger phenomenon Hoit has spent her post-service life addressing: misperceptions about female veterans, who are also less likely to be aware and take advantage of the benefits afforded to them for their service.
According to the White House, just one in five female veterans use their GI Bill benefits, and three quarters of female veterans are not enrolled in the VA’s health care system.
Hoit, who works for the group Got Your 6, a veterans advocacy group, is helping shift perceptions about veterans and aiding them in reintegrating into civilian life.
Today, Hoit's work took her to Capitol Hill to commemorate female veterans and their service.
Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, have worked to reintegrate and support service members returning home with their Joining Voices initiative.
"Our women in uniform ... still face plenty of challenges as they serve this country and then transition back to civilian life," Obama said Wednesday.
At the event, the first lady, Dr. Biden and members of Congress honored retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, who was the first female general in the Air Force's history.
Obama also mentioned Hoit’s experience at the veterans’ office in her remarks and met with her before the event.
“Those women are trailblazers and to have them of champions of female service members and a voice, you couldn't ask for more,” Hoit said of Obama, Biden and Pelosi.