Women Veterans participate in photo shoot

Friday, July 24, 2020 2:55 pm
Women Veterans participate in photo shoot

By Sue Harper

Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs

Public Affairs

Around 20 Arkansas  residents and military veterans participated in the “I Am Not Invisible” campaign photo shoot held Friday in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Bingo hall in Sherwood, Arkansas.

Gina Chandler, Elesha Granniss, Sue Harper, Christine Oldham, Jami Scott, LeAnne Buch, Melissa Orrell, Lisa Ethridge, Hope Gilbert, Patricia Riley, Mary Erdman, Regena Handley, Margarite Overton, Pamela Boyd Sheilds, and Elizabeth Esary are some of the women who attended. They came from all over the state and hold a variety of positions.

They are now among the more than 2,400 women veterans who have participated in the event, said Eugene Russell, Photographer for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and lead photographer for this campaign.

Three of the women all came from the same town of Monticello: Representative LeAnne Burch, a retired brigadier general who served 30 years reserve and Army active duty time; The Advance-Monticellonian Editor Melissa Orrell, a six-year, active-duty, Marine Corps veteran; and Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Service Officer Sue Harper, a retired 25-year Army, active-duty veteran.

The “I Am Not Invisible” campaign helps women veterans remember their veteran roots and helps their communities see their women veteran members, said Elesha Granniss Arkansas State Women Veterans Coordinator.

“Most women veterans don’t stand up or standout when it comes to their time in the armed forces. They fade back into society as a mother, daughter, sister or friend,” said Gina Chandler, Assistant Director for Veterans Services and Senior Advisor to the National Association of State Women Veteran Coordinators. “With this campaign, ‘I Am Not Invisible’, it showcases the thousands of women who served and inspires future generations of women warriors.”

Burch said she was honored to participate in a campaign that recognizes the contributions of women veterans.

“In my experience, women are less likely to talk about their military service,” she said. “I hope that by raising awareness, it encourages other women to see the opportunities the military offers.”

 “I Am Not Invisible” Is a Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Women Veterans campaign, said Russell, who is an Army veteran.

A side effect of participating in the “I am Not Invisible” photo shoot is fellowship.

Orrell said she enjoyed the event as it was nice to get together with other women veterans.

“I loved being able to represent my component of female veterans at this event,” said Orrell who served as a Marine Combat Correspondent from 1998 to 2002. “If it was not for the Marine Corps, I would not have the skills and knowledge that I have.”

Arkansas was the 43rd state to be photographed for this project that will eventually cover 50 states, Russell said. Arkansas has 19,000 women veterans of a total of roughly 216,000 veterans.

The photos will be assembled into photos and posters that will displayed around the state.

Sherwood was the 59th city, and the campaign is winding down, Russell said.

“We hoping to be done this year,” Russell said.

Due to COVID-19 this event was by invitation only.

Women veterans in Arkansas seeking information about women veteran events and news can send an email to adva.public@arkansas.gov  to be added to the distribution list.

ADVA Photo -- Gene Russell works with Joy Leaphart during Leaphart's photo session.

Democrat Gazette photos available: