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Overton Brooks VA Medical Center

 

Serving Veterans is more than a job

Women_Vet

Linda Resendez, an occupational therapist with Mental Health Services at Overton Brooks VA, stands with her husband, Daniel, and others during a wreath hanging ceremony at Hill Crest Cemetery in recognition of Veterans Day 2013. The event was sponsored by the American Legion. Resendez is the first female post commander for the American Legion’s 4th District.

By Joe Thomas
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Serving Veterans is more than a job for Linda Resendez; it is a way of life.

“I want to help Veterans as much as I can,” Resendez said, “especially women Veterans. I advocate for them as much as possible.”

Resendez, an occupational therapist with Mental Health Services at Overton Brooks VAMC, not only serves her fellow Veterans but has been a part of history as well, paving the way as the first female Airman to serve at Detachment 14, an Air Force unit responsible for radar tracking, communication and maintenance.

“I was the only woman there for about a year and a half,” Resendez said. “I am also the first female post commander of the 4th District of the American Legion, Post 191.”

After serving 15 years in the Air Force, Resendez completed her second bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy (her first was in social science), serving others in the private sector before joining the VA in 1999. It’s a role that sends her “where the need is.”

“Sometimes, I reach out to Veterans in their homes— Veterans who may have physical, mental or emotional needs,” Resendez said. “I coach those individuals who isolate back into society.”

Getting Veterans out of “isolation mode” requires Resendez to use a variety of methods and a plenty of one-on-one time.

“For instance, with Psychosocial Rehab and Recovery, I give classes in anger management, budgeting and other areas that will improve their quality of life. It’s all about giving them confidence,” Resendez said. “I also provide a link between them and volunteer work and outdoor activities. I’ll actually spend time with them until they’re ready to go out on their own.

“Sometimes they just need help getting on their feet. Other times they (homeless Veterans) only want clean clothes and something to eat. This is another reason why I work with the VA Homeless Veterans Program. I’ve also worked with Veterans who have substance abuse problems and mental illness.”

In addition to her responsibilities off the job, the Boykins, Va. native also serves on another committee, Vets for Vets, an outreach group that raises donations for Veteran’s programs by hosting the Veterans Day Motorcycle Event.

“We’re a committee— not a biker group,” Resendez said. “Riding is great form of therapy for our Veterans, especially for those who can afford it. I highly encourage it.”

However, Resendez says that her main focus is advocating for women Veterans here and at the state level.

“I serve on numerous committees where I advocate for women’s healthcare and women Veterans in general,” Resendez said. “Many women who serve in the military are going to have many of the same health care issues as men— injured knees and backs— as well as their own women’s health issues. Also, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is just as prevalent among female Veterans as it is for our male Veterans.”

According to Resendez, women’s health care is still underscored in society at large; however, despite room for improvement, the culture is changing.

“Right now we’re a little behind in women’s health care, but I see an expansion, especially in the VA, as that need grows.”

Although Resendez has dedicated her life to helping those who served, she is the only member of her immediate family to join the military, saying that it was unusual for a woman in her home town to do so.

“I joined the Air Force because I knew it would give me a lot of opportunities I would not have had if I had stayed in southern Virginia,” Resendez said. “It gave me the opportunity to travel and get an education. In my home town of Boykins, ‘good girls’ didn’t typically join the military, but now when I go home everyone seems to think it’s pretty cool.”

Not only did Resendez’s occupation in the Air Force require her to work on radar equipment but it also gave her the opportunity to participate in electronic war games and scoring bombers on their ability to hit their targets.

Resendez spends much of her time giving back to her profession by teaching others enrolled in occupational therapy programs. Serving as an adjunct professor at Bossier Parish Community College, she translates her experiences to a new generation of students.

Within this hectic schedule, Resendez finds time to serve her community in other ways.

“I am on the Northwest War Veterans Home Ancillary Committee and do things with them, as well as the Spirit of Bossier Exchange Club, whose mission is child abuse prevention and Americanism.”

According to VA literature, women are a rapidly growing demographic in military service and, consequently, the fastest growing demographic receiving VA health care. The VA is transitioning to meet this need, a transition that Resendez plays a role in both on and off the job. She currently lives with her husband Daniel who is also a member of the American Legion and a retiree from the Air Force.

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