Dwyer Vet2Vet of Putnam Expands Scope of Peer-to-Peer Community Building in 2018

Women’s History Month Kicks off New Ways to Reach Former Military Women and Families
to Provide Sense of Purpose and Help Finding Quality of Life and Benefit Resources

PUTNAM COUNTY, NY (March 14, 2018) – The Joseph P. Dwyer Vet2Vet Program of Putnam is kicking off 2018 in force with four dedicated groups catering to the unique social and emotional support needs of former military personnel. The program and groups are open to ALL former military, regardless of discharge status or service dates, and are customized based on demographic categories and interests, including an art and writing-focused  Outreach Studio, Women’s Outreach Group, Families & Spouses of Former Military, and a fourth Veterans Outreach Program, which is currently presenting episodes of the PBS special series, “The Vietnam War”.

Among the organization’s key initiatives for 2018 is outreach to former military women. Consistent with the Dwyer Vet2Vet peer-to-peer program philosophy, the Women’s Group is facilitated by two female veterans, Mary Wagner, retired Chief Master Sergeant, New York Air National Guard, and 1st Lieutenant Edie Meeks, who served as a combat nurse during the Vietnam War. The Dwyer Vet2Vet Women’s Group meets on the third Thursday of the month in Putnam County. Prospective attendees should check the website for meeting location details, www.dwyervet2vetputnam.org. The group aims to reach out to former military women who are often underserved due to their reluctance to identify themselves as veterans based upon painful or traumatic episodes, including military sexual assault (MST). For more info, contact Mary Wagner via email, mwagner@mhaputnam.org.

“There’s a special kinship and commonality of understanding among former military personnel that effectively breaks down communication barriers leading to productive discussions,” said Mary Wagner, Vet2Vet Women’s Group Facilitator. “Women who have served don’t necessarily want to go through their entire story and relive every aspect of their trauma or combat experience. But they do find extraordinary benefits associated with socializing with a community of other women who understand where they are coming from. We just want to get these women engaged, build a community of friends, and create a fun and safe peer-led environment.”


Ms. Wagner and Ms. Meeks are working together with John Bourges, program coordinator, Dwyer Vet2Vet of Putnam County, to organize a brainstorming lunch to commemorate the 25th anniversary dedication of the Women’s Vietnam Memorial Statue in Washington D.C. in November.  “We are looking for former military women to participate in this planning session and become part of our community,” says Wagner. “If you are a female veteran or former military in any capacity and you’re interested in getting involved, please contact me via email at mwagner@mhaputnam.org. We have also launched a dedicated Facebook Group for our female vets. Those interested in joining should search the group name: Former Military Women of Hudson Valley.”

Bourges points out that former military personnel participating in any of the organization’s four programs will benefit from involvement in group activities. “We regularly host a free Saturday movie morning at the Carmel Cinema for veterans and their families, as well as an array of monthly meetings and events, including a monthly writing workshop, painting, an annual Veterans’ Chow Down at the Putnam County Golf Course, Hudson Valley Renegades events, an equestrian program, and we recently launched a new 24-hour warm line service for former military personnel who have a need to speak with a veteran peer counselor.”

“One of the most important aspects of the Dwyer Vet2Vet Program is virtually unrestricted access to our services,” says Bourges. “The Veterans Administration has a strictly defined eligibility standard that can exclude certain former military personnel from veterans’ benefits.  The Dwyer Vet2Vet program does not adopt any restrictions to service length or discharge status. Any former military professional can take part in the Vet2Vet program and we encourage anyone who is struggling with isolation, depression, PTSD or the day-to-day challenges of acclimating to civilian life, to contact us and participate in one of our four groups.”

Veterans interested in learning more about Dwyer Vet2Vet of Putnam or volunteering may visit the website at www.dwyervet2vetputnam.org.