Veteran Tiffany Varney (right) with Nathaniel Blanchard American Legion Post Ladies Auxiliary President Francine Waldron. Several local Legion Auxiliaries have organized baby showers for pregnant veterans. The number of pregnant veterans has increased in recent years, and the support groups are looking to ensure they're outfitted for motherhood.
Photo by Charles Wiff.
Tiffany Varney is an Air National Guard veteran.
Discharged last October, the South Glens Falls resident was grouped with the 109th Airlift Wing out of Scotia and was stationed overseas in Qatar for six months during her service. She's also pregnant.
While there are many supports in place for veterans, female service members are still in the minority, and sometimes their needs get overlooked. That's something local veteran support groups are looking to remedy, though, and on Tuesday, Aug. 2, the Nathaniel Blanchard American Legion Post Ladies Auxiliary, the Voorheesville American Legion Post Ladies Auxiliary and the Bucci McTague Post Ladies Auxiliary came together at the Nathaniel Blanchard Post in Delmar to throw Varney a baby shower.
“It is a huge, huge, huge help,” said Varney, who was 36 weeks pregnant with her first child at the time of the shower. “I never expected anything like this ever before. It's amazing how everybody comes together and helps.”
There are more pregnant vets than you might think. According to Jane Weber, the women veterans program manager at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, about a dozen have recently passed through the halls of the VA hospital.
It's something that's becoming more prevalent as the number of women serving increases and the average age of all veterans goes down. In some cases, both halves of a couple serve in the military.
“The women population is growing, and the face of the veteran is changing,” Weber said. “In some cases, they're alone because their partner is deployed.”
And just like thousands of other veterans, pregnant vets sometimes need a hand. But female vets may find the system is not always set up with their needs in mind. Simply making women veterans aware of the resources the VA offers is an ongoing mission, said Weber. She has organized an all-women support group at the Albany VA that sees about 60 female veterans meeting regularly. Many might not take advantage of anything the VA has to offer without such a group, Weber said, as its common for women to feel marginalized in the military even though they now constitute about 15 percent of the active duty force.
Since pregnancy is by definition unique to women, this is one area veteran supporters can really step up to engage women vets, said Nathaniel Blanchard American Legion Post Ladies Auxiliary President Francine Waldron. The Delmar post has recently partnered with others to bring donations directly to the hospital and now hopes to throw more affairs like the shower for Varney.
“How large is the scale? You don't know,” Waldron said. “We're just concerned with helping. We just decided that somebody needed to help.”