By Simona Jackson, AW2 Advocate
In October 2007, I travelled to Hawaii for a routine AW2 site visit to brief USARPAC Gen John Brown III.
Prior to my departure I took a pregnancy home test which reflected my first pregnancy at 37 years of age. As I traveled, I experienced discomfort, nausea, and cramping – all of which heightened my fears and anxiety. When I arrived in Honolulu, I was advised by our SGM to be seen by a VAMC doctor to ensure my health and welfare.
As an Army Veteran, I had used VAMC services before and was worried about whether or not they would have enough availability for “female services.”
However, on October 17, 2007, I proceeded to the VAMC Honolulu and was asked by the staff to take a blood and urine test. When the tests came back I was encouraged by the female physician who said, “Mrs. Jackson would you like to be the first female Veteran to receive an ultrasound in our Women’s Clinic? It just opened a few days ago.”
I kindly and proudly said, “Yes I will.”
As the ER physician escorted me to the Women’s Clinic and to the ultrasound room she said a small prayer for me and congratulated me again by saying, “See your baby is making history already!”
They allowed me to call my husband, Ronald Jackson, who was in Virginia and we rejoiced together in tears! The service I received at the new VAMC Honolulu Women’s clinic was kind and professional — I am truly grateful to them for service they provided.
After my doctor appointment, I had the honor of meeting MAJ Tammy Duckworth who happened to be in Hawaii visiting her childhood school. It was an incredible feeling to be sharing my first pregnancy pictures with a woman who played an instrumental role in helping to increase access to women’s health services at that time through her position as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Earlier this year, MAJ Duckworth, who is now the Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the VA, got to meet my little Victoria at AW2′s Annual Training in San Antonio. Victoria smiled as if she had known MAJ Duckworth for years. On our return from San Antonio, my husband and Victoria also had the opportunity to see MAJ Duckworth at the Washington Reagan Airport in Washington D.C. where Victoria gave hugs and hand waves to MAJ Duckworth.
As an AW2 Soldier, MAJ Duckworth needed a new AW2 Advocate when she relocated to Washington, D.C. to serve as the Assistant Secretary. As fate would have it, I was recently assigned to be her advocate.
I am proud to be an AW2 Advocate for MAJ Duckworth and it is a privilege to advocate for her, just as she advocates for all female Veterans.