DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Women make up 20 percent of the military, but they say it can sometimes be hard to be recognized for their service at all.
That is why the Department of Veterans Affairs started ‘I Am Not Invisible.’ It is a virtual art exhibit showcasing those women and what they have accomplished in the military.
The project came to Danville Thursday at the VA Illiana Health Care Center. Dozens came together to have their photos taken for it, but what they did not expect was to have the pride of their service come rushing back.
“It’s a really expressive and fun way for people to learn the stories of different women veterans and all the cool things they’ve done throughout time and history,” says Navy veteran Larkin Harris.
It started in Oregon as a series of 20 photos of women veterans. They said it was a way to bring awareness and open viewers eyes to how many women serve in the military. Soon after that, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs turned it into a national project.
They have visited 35 different states and photographed thousands of women. One of the organizers for the Danville shoot says she loved seeing the confidence grow in each woman that came in.
“My favorite part of the day is just having women come and enjoy having their photos taken and having themselves captured and know this is their story,” says Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Program Manager Nicole Mandeville. “This is their opportunity to share their story.”
The U.S Veterans Affairs office has one of their own photographers visiting each state for the project. Next up for him is Indiana and Ohio.
The women being photographed say they are happy to raise awareness about their existence, but an added benefit was a chance to reflect on their military careers.
“Sometimes we women just sort of brush those things off and say, ‘Oh that’s just what you do,'” says Harris. “But to really look and reevaluate and think, ‘Wow. I did that.'”
The State Department of Veterans Affairs hopes to bring them back and get the rest of Illinois involved.