PENNSYLVANIA, USA — FOX43 is highlighting local veterans and their lives after service in honor of Veteran's Day on Friday, Nov. 11.
Photojournalist David Lobach spoke with a veteran who advocates for more female representation in military and veteran affairs.
Brigadier General Maureen Weigl was appointed as Pennsylvania's Deputy Adjutant General for Veterans Affairs in 2021 after serving in the Army for 25 years.
"Normally I'm in my car, I'm anywhere from Philadelphia to Erie," Weigl said. "I go to nursing homes, I go to the prisons, I go to the homeless shelters, I go to all of our community partners, the nonprofits that are running these shelters, that are running the food banks."
She supervises the administration of state veterans' programs, reintegration, outreach and veteran initiatives for more than 700,000 veterans and their families.
"Veterans tend to have a higher percentage of homelessness than non-veterans," the Deputy Adjutant General said. "We need to make sure that we have housing for them, affordable housing, and it's not just those that are homeless, we have people facing housing insecurity and food insecurity, so we need to make sure that we take care of those veterans."
Weigl also has a special interest in advocating for women who serve in the armed forces.
She said that females are the fastest growing demographic in the service—when she joined, she was one of just 10% of women in the military. Now, she says that number is closer to 20% and expected to reach 25% by 2025.
Having peers to talk and relate to is paramount. Otherwise, Weigl says, it can be a very lonely experience, both during and after service.
"Women have unique issues after they've left service," Weigl said. "Females are 2½ times more likely to commit suicide than their male counterparts and they are just as likely to be homeless, and I think it's been ignored for many years and we're addressing that issue. We're recognizing that many women are coming to us, needing shelters, needing care, needing help."
Despite the challenges women in the service face, Weigl is happy to see the improvements that have come to be over the years.
"We've come such a long way for women in the military, it's really exciting," the veteran said. "I would tell young girls now to go and be anything you can be. You wanna be a fighter pilot, you wanna command a Navy ship, you want to go on a submarine… all options are open and that means you could be a four-star general.
"The glass ceilings are all shattered and women can do anything, so I thank the women that came before me and I talk to women that are in ROTC—they don't see themselves as any different as a male, they just consider themselves as a service member and they want to do the best job at whatever job the military needs them to do and that's exciting."
General Weigl reminds veterans that they can always reach out to PA VETConnect to get in touch with providers of programs and services from temporary housing to medical care.