In Focus: “I Am Not Invisible” Tells Stories Of Female Veterans
“People just don’t realize that women serve. It’s not that they don’t think we can, it’s just that they don’t think about it and it just makes it more visible with this display,” says Chris Magnusson, a marine and representative from the United Way – United For Veterans.
The display (now featured at the Reif Center in Grand Rapids) is simple. There are 33 black and white portraits featuring women of all ages, ethnicities and all different branches of the military. They belong to different eras from WWII and Korea to Afghanistan and Iraq.
“There’s a women that was with the infantry in Vietnam. There’s several in the military police, communications, film production, even, for the militaries,” says Magnusson.
At the bottom of each portrait, you can read that woman’s story. They touch on things like active duty as well as civilian life.
“I’m impressed with the older ladies who have come out and who told their stories under their photos. You know, to me it’s just amazing,” says Sharon Voltz, a representative from the Grand Rapids Yellow Ribbon Citizens Committee.
There are dozens of stories in the “I Am Not Invisible” display. Some talk about sacrifice while others talk about pride. The main goal of the project is for their stories to finally come out of the shadows.
Magnusson says, “I didn’t know that many women veterans in the area until just the last few weeks, and it’s just great to know that these are Minnesota women. They’re from mostly down in the Twin Cities area, but they’re all Minnesota women. They’re my peers. They’re my colleagues.”
Magnusson was the one who pushed to bring the traveling show to Grand Rapids after participating in a female veterans retreat for women who live in northeastern Minnesota. She says many people she’s talked to say they feel inspired after viewing the portraits.
“The people have been amazed. They see how young these women were when they went in the service, what they went through, how some of them are dealing with PTSD – you know, the challenges they face, and they’re just amazed at the strength of the women from our part of the country,” says Magnusson.
This Sunday, the Reif Center will host a special free event that involves the display. They will be showing a documentary that tells the stories of three women who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Women vets will also be available to talk about the display and their own personal experience. It’s starts at 2 in the afternoon.
The display itself will also be up at the Reif Center until Sunday, when it will move to Minneapolis.
Voltz says, “Our goal is to make sure that our women veterans get recognition as well. That’s what our big goal is.”