Women Veterans ROCK! in partnership with Regent University’s Office of Military & Veterans Affairs, held its annual summer leadership retreat on campus from June 17-19. The three-day conference welcomed 150 military-involved women, who traveled to Virginia Beach from 11 East Coast states and California to participate in the sixth year of a “unique post-military leadership development forum designed especially for today’s military women.”
A nonprofit community organization, Women Veterans ROCK! (an acronym for Researching for Outcomes, Causes & Knowledge) is headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The group oversees satellite operations in the Washington, D.C. area.
“The American people need to know that today’s female veterans represent a growing coalition of amazing, diverse and resilient community of military women who are the new and emerging face of public leadership in America,” says Deborah Harmon-Pugh, national campaign chair of Women Veterans ROCK!
“While it is important to recognize all veterans, the Women Veterans ROCK! organization seeks to honor and empower all women veterans by connecting female veterans and military families to resources, benefits and support services,” says Bob Habib, Regent’s director of graduate and military admissions. “Their leadership vision and mission resonated with Regent and, as a result, we ended up partnering with them to host their annual leadership retreat.”
“As a country, we need to do more to meet the needs of our transitioning female veterans,. … The Summer Leadership Retreat was an amazing resource to connect, support and empower our women veterans.” – José Roman
The conference, which offered women the opportunity to recharge and rebuild, featured a Friday Night Powerhouse Kickoff with international evangelist and popular TV personality Paula White. During her keynote address, White proclaimed to those in attendance that they were “world changers” who had the enemy “ticked off.” White’s flight to Virginia Beach was delayed several hours, and she almost didn’t reach the conference at all.
“Someone at this meeting tonight is called for greatness,” she said. “I have preached for 10,000, 50,000, filled out stadiums, and never had the resistance like today. So I’m not sure what world changer I’m here for; I don’t know who God sent me for; but there’s somebody here [entering] a period of extreme greatness.”
The conference welcomed all women associated with the military who want to gain leadership skills and experience. That includes veterans, active duty service members and reservists, along with military spouses, widows and moms. In their day-to-day operations, Women Veterans ROCK!, which is sponsored by The Healthy Caregivers Foundation, also provides professional networking receptions, women’s health fairs, job readiness resources, and employment opportunities.
“As a country, we need to do more to meet the needs of our transitioning female veterans,” insists José Roman, assistant director of Regent’s Office of Military & Veterans Affairs. “The Summer Leadership Retreat was an amazing resource to connect, support and empower our women veterans.”
“Part of our office mission is to be a resource to the military community at-large,” he adds. “The Women Veterans ROCK! organization, with its emphasis on developing veteran leaders and civic engagement, is a natural partnership for the university. They hosted similar events in the Northeast and the Midwest. We wanted to host their first mid-Atlantic event at Regent.”
“The 2016 Women Veterans Civic Leadership Development Retreat was a huge success,” Harmon-Pugh insists. “The partnership between Women Veterans ROCK! and Regent University is a new and exciting collaborative alliance. It offers us both a unique opportunity to expose more military women and military family members to a great academic institution like Regent, and demonstrates the university’s ongoing commitment to the post-military development of women veterans and military families.”
The dynamic weekend retreat offered skills-building forums and workshops; entrepreneurship, leadership and media-training summits; and career-networking opportunities. At a luncheon on Saturday, Women Veterans ROCK! recognized 2016 Leaders and Legends of the year, including LaTonya Slade, VA certifying official for enrollment management at Regent. Slade, who served 20-plus years in the U.S. Coast Guard, was recently appointed president of Women Veterans ROCK! for Virginia.
“As a veteran … I’m happy I’ve been able to lean on God, and He’s gotten me through everything that I’ve ever had to go through.” – LaTonya Slade
“I was extremely excited to attend the Summer Leadership Retreat,” Slade says. “I feel that it is critical for every veteran, especially women, to be aware of the resources and civic leadership opportunities that can ultimately lead them to be positive change agents in the community.”
The conference also paid tribute to a female soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the U.S. Army. Honor and Remember, a national veteran memorial campaign founded by Regent alumnus George Lutz, recognized Sgt. Caryn Nouv. The married mother of two young children was killed in action while deployed in Afghanistan in July of 2013.
“Being a woman veteran takes a lot of strength,” Slade explains. “Depending on the person’s situation, you have to adapt and overcome. If you have a little bit of faith, you have to lean in that direction to get through your trials, but you know you’ve done something and you’re doing something to help someone. You’ve fought for your country. You’ve gone out to sea. You’ve left your family. But, it’s all worth it, because you know you’re doing something for the greater good. As a veteran, I’m proud of that, and I’m happy I’ve been able to lean on God, and He’s gotten me through everything that I’ve ever had to go through.”
Learn more about Regent University’s military programs and benefits at www.regent.edu/military or call 757.352.4757.