How do you go from service member to running for the Indiana State Senate? Check out the story of Tabitha Bartley and how her difficult transition experience out of the military led her to get involved with helping veterans and now she is working to make a change for her local community through running for office for State Senator District 7.
A few years ago, I heard Mark Rockefeller speak about how Veterans can help remove the divide in politics. He talked about how veterans are taught to work and execute a mission with people who are different from themselves. As military members we come from all over with all different types of cultures and experiences but are all seen as soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, coasties and have one primary mission, to get the mission done.
It requires not only talking to your fellow service member but also working together to solve the problems at hand. That is why I am so excited to talk to Tabitha about why she is running for office. She shares a little of her military experience and her difficult transition and how that led her to run for public office. But it is what she is doing today that is most exciting.
Not only is she running for office, but she is already working to bring positive change for her community through helping to organize various events and holding weekly conversations that local Indiana residents are facing. She wants to have a real conversation and stand up for change.
She wants to help people with simple solutions and focus on solving problems. She wants to take the politics out of non-partisan issues and find the solution to issues instead of disagreeing and not finding a solution.
Tabitha Bartley enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2010 and completed recruit training at MCRD Parris Island, SC. Following recruit training Private Bartley attended Marine Corps Combat Training at Camp Geiger and then the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, MD. PFC Bartley reported to Base Public Affairs, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA in June of 2011 to serve as a staff writer for the Quantico Sentry.
Lance Corporal Bartley served as the assistant director for the Base Community Relations program where she was part of the Toys for Tots Campaign and ran the base volunteer program. Corporal Bartley then made a PCS move to Marine Corps Recruiting Station Columbia, SC in June 2014.
While Stationed at RS Columbia Sgt. Bartley served as the Marketing and Public Affairs Director. She handles all the marketing, public relations, community relations, media relations, and advised the commanding officer. Sgt. Bartley also served as the uniform sexual assault victim advocate.
During her time in the Marines, she maintained numerous social media platforms, developed strategic marketing plans, and orchestrated community initiatives. Sgt. Bartley ended her service in the Marine Corps in October 2018 and relocated to Monticello, IN
She currently works for the University Development Office at Purdue Research Foundation and serves as the director for Women Veterans of Greater Lafayette, IN. She is also a member of the Disabled American Veterans, the Tippecanoe County Veterans Council, and the Midwest Women Veterans Coalition.
Tabitha is married to Jacob Castro and they have three children.
Tabitha Bartley’s personal awards include: Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal with 3 gold stars in lieu of 4th Award, District Support Marine of the Year 2015, District Support Marine of the Year 2016, District Marketing and Public Affairs Marine of the Year 2017.
Connect with Tabitha:
Mentioned in this episode (affiliate links used):
Final Flight, Final Fight
Do You Know the Story of the Original Military Women Pilots?
Girls Guide to the Military
Register to Vote
Finding Herself in the Marines – Episode 12
Join the Marine Corps – Episode 80
Serving as an Officer in the Marine Corps – Episode 51
Read the full transcript here.
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Amanda Huffman 00:01
Welcome to Episode 95 of the Women on the Military Podcast. I wanted to do an episode on women veterans in politics because I was inspired after reading Erin Miller's book, Final Fight Final flight, and I interviewed her in Episode 49 where she talked about the work she did to get her grandmother and urn at Arlington National Cemetery. And she worked with a woman veteran, Martha Mcsalley, who was a senator in the US Capitol. And then I met Tabitha Bartley, who is currently running for the Indiana State Senate. And I thought what a great way to talk about the role and advocacy of women veterans with someone who was campaigning to become a politician in her local state government. How do you go from servicemember to running for the Indiana State Senate? Check out the story of Tabitha Bartley and how her difficult transition experience out of the military led her to get involved with helping veterans and now she is working to make a change for her local community through running for public office for the state senator district seven, I'm really excited to talk about not only her experience in the military but what she's doing today and how she's using her voice to make a change. So let's get started. Listening to the Women of the Military Podcast where we share the stories of female servicemembers and how the military touch their lives. I'm Amanda Huffman, I'm an Air Force veteran, author of women of the military, and a collaborative author of Brave Women, Strong Faith. I am also a military spouse and Mom. I created the Women of the Military Podcast as a place to share stories of military women past and present with the goal of finding the heart of the story while uncovering the triumphs and challenges women face while serving in the military. If you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women and be inspired to change the world, keep tuned for this latest episode of Women of the Military. I'm excited to have you here on the podcast to talk about running for the Indiana State Senate.
Tabitha Bartley 02:23
Thank you so much. I'm so excited to be here.
Amanda Huffman 02:25
So let's get started with Why did you decide to join the military?
Tabitha Bartley 02:29
Yeah, so actually, I am a I was a 21st-century scholarship recipient, which means that I could go to any public university in the state of Indiana for free and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. So I started going to our local community college about a year into that a recruiter Gunnery Sergeant Rodriguez called me asking if I wanted to come to the office and talk to him. And I was like, Sure, I'll come in and talk. But there's no way I'm joining the Marine Corps. That's just not that's not happening. But I don't know anything about it. You caught me on a good day. So I'll come in. Well, in meeting him, we instantly clicked he was a big New York Yankees fan. So was I and he started talking about the jobs in the Marine Corps that I had no idea existed by any means. And kind of my biggest goal in life was I'm a huge Boy Meets World fan. And I wanted to do good in the world. Like that quote from Mr. Feeny was just do good in the world. And Gunny rod was telling me first about his experience doing humanitarian missions and how they were able to accomplish things that other units hadn't been able to because they were Marine Corps unit and the procedure of what the uniform meant. And then he told me about public affairs, and sort of explained, you know, you could be a journalist, you're going to be working in communities, you're going to get taught photography, you're going to get taught Media Relations, all of these things. And I was just like, you could do that in the Marine Corps, like I can, I could leave right now start getting trained, and then do be doing a job in a career. And so I was just like, yeah, that's what I'm supposed to do. And it was kind of like a complete 180. It was like, up until that point, you know, I was in show choir, I was maybe going to go into social work, like, I don't know, it was just that that type of person. And I never thought of the military as an option because I didn't know anything about it. Not, you know, not because I didn't want to or didn't, I just wasn't informed. So after getting that information, it completely changed my life. And I was all for it. So I joined the Marine Corps, but I had to wait five months to enlist into the delayed entry program. And then 11 months in the delayed entry program, because I wanted to mark the public affairs MLS, which is the military occupation. So I joined the Marine Corps and officially shipped off in 2010 of September.
Amanda Huffman 04:36
So that's a long wait a long way. It was, did you keep going to school while you were waiting? or What were you up to while you're waiting?
Tabitha Bartley 04:46
So I finished that semester that I was already going in, but then I decided not to I think I like moved in with a friend and kind of just tried to be an adult sort of, and I was at the recruiting station at time. So it was Helping the recruiters I was working out a lot, just getting as prepared as I could. And I spent a ton of time with my grandparents as well, because I knew being in the Marine Corps, I wasn't going to be stationed anywhere close to home. So I took that time to kind of just be around my family as much as I could.
Amanda Huffman 05:15
So I've learned a lot about the PA school isn't LinkedIn closer to
Tabitha Bartley 05:20
the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland, which funny school used to be in Indiana before is in Maryland?
Amanda Huffman 05:27
Yeah. And it's like all the branches go to that school and you get to learn like all the things that I'm like, man.
Tabitha Bartley 05:35
Yeah, that was cool. You know, that was one of the coolest things like we even had a Coast Guardsmen in our class, which is crazy. You don't normally interact much with Coasties. And so that was a really great experience from the get-go to be interacting with every branch of service. And again, and we were trained in journalism, we were trained in photography, media relations, community relations, public relations, I'm sure I'm probably missing something as well. And so it was just a really amazing experience. And I loved my job. I mean, that was a huge part of it. Like I really wanted to be a Marine, but I also wanted that specific job in the Marine Corps.
Amanda Huffman 06:10
Yeah. So are there any highlights of like stories that you got to cover or something that you're really proud of? From your time in the military?
Tabitha Bartley 06:16
Yeah, so I was stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico. And I started out as a journalist there, and I got to cover a ton of stories. My beats were normally security Battalion, so I got to do all sorts of really cool things with them. I got to cover underwater promotion, my first week, my master to actually made us go out and find our own stories. And I met with course instructors, and then they were doing an underwater promotion and somehow took photos of underwater promotion. And then, at Quantico, I learned about the community relations billet. And I was, you know, by that time, I was a lance corporal. And when I there part of our unit, the community relations program, and at the time, I was like, that's the job I need. That's the billet I need to fill and it opened up and I kind of really fought really hard to get it and was able to get it as a lance corporal and I did a lot of really amazing things at Quantico and met a ton of awesome people got to work for Toys for Tots. And then I wanted to become a marketing and Public Affairs Marine, which there's only 48 of those in the nation. And so I had to fight really hard to get that because I was a corporal I was technically a single parent because me and my husband were not married, and he was getting deployed to Djibouti, Africa. And so I fought to get that billet and was able to get it and then got assigned to Columbia, South Carolina, and got to run the marketing and Public Affairs program there, which was just an amazing experience. The whole thing from doing the marketing to the media to really embedding myself in different communities across South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. And I'll have to say my favorite was definitely doing the Marine Corps educators workshop, we got to take educators to Parris Island for a week and show them the entire transformation from civilian to Marine, and I look forward to that event every single year.
Amanda Huffman 07:57
That sounds really cool. So it sounds like you love being a marine. And you are in the Marine Corps and you are loving live. And then what happened to make it so that you left the military?
Tabitha Bartley 08:07
Yeah, so I actually so I ended up having three children in the Marine Corps. And in that time, I had had two hip surgeries. And after delivering my third child, it was after the six weeks at that time, every child had different maternity leave, that was that time when they kept changing it. So I think it was after the six weeks when I delivered my daughter, we got a call that Rucking Raiders was coming through Columbia, South Carolina, on a portion of their, you know, their, their ruck, and one of our recruiters were going to bring all of his police to it, it was an Eight Mile portion, like not a big deal. And they asked if I could take photos. And of course, I was like, Well, yeah, I'm the only one who can take photos. Nobody else knows how to take photos. And so I went, however, what I didn't know and just wasn't properly informed of was, I had had a prolapse. And so the next morning, I ended up in the emergency room with multiple organs falling out of my body, and then this super long process of trying to figure out exactly what was wrong, going from referral to your ob to referral to a specialist and just the whole TRICARE nightmare. And so eventually, it came to a point where it was three days before my end of service, and the doctor who was determining whether or not I would stay on medical to get treated pretty much said that my condition wasn't life or death, and plenty of women live with it, and that the VA could fix me. And so that Friday, I was out of the Marine Corps.
Amanda Huffman 09:33
That is crazy. Yeah, I've heard about the medical process. They're like, there's like this board and like it takes forever. And then all of a sudden, like one day they decide and they're like, and you're gone like
Tabitha Bartley 09:45
and then she was I never got to go up on a medical board at all. Up until that point, I had been told that I would be in that would be the process and what would happen because we hadn't gotten the full determination from the specialist of why the treatment was or what needed to be done. And so That whole time even my command, we all thought that I was going to be medically held at least another six months at the minimum. So yes, I had gone to taps, you know, like a year before, but I couldn't apply for jobs because I couldn't tell them when I was going to be there. And so that made it extremely hard. And it was a really, really hard time. And at that time, my husband was a stay at home dad, so three children and trying to figure out what to do at that point. It was just, it was a bit of a nightmare. And I wouldn't watch that transition on anybody.
Amanda Huffman 10:33
Yeah, that sounds horrible and wrong, horrible and wrong. I'm so sorry. I didn't go through that. So I'm gonna guess your transition story is really hard. Because I mean, even when you're prepared for it, it's difficult. And you were just like, blindsided by that, so talk us through that time and lead us to where you are today.
Tabitha Bartley 10:53
Yeah. So that, you know, in that week, I had tried to get a congressional inquiry done because that was the only thing that could be done. In that moment, I contacted all of my local elected officials telling them my story, filling out the paperwork, and essentially was just continuously pushed to the side, or I'm not the person for you, or it goes to somebody else. But was there never an actual like baton pass to this is who you need to go to, or this is what we're missing, or a, b and c. And so I kind of just stopped at that point, it was like, I'm gonna have to address this another time, I'll have to fight this battle. Another day. There's nothing I can do for myself, besides figuring out how to move back to Indiana where my family is so that we can have a support system. And so we moved to Indiana in October of 2018. And I started bartending and my husband started welding because again, those were just the jobs, we were able to get easier, we had to do that. And all this time, I still have my prolapses I still can hardly walk, I can't stand for a long period of time, it was triggering my complex migraines. And so I was ending up in the emergency room as well, still with no VA health care. And so I had to find a job. And I had to try and get health care. And it was a battle to get seen for this issue. Because it was a woman's issue. I had to fight with the VA constantly to be seen and to get a referral out in town instead of having to travel over an hour and a half to our VA, which they wanted me to do twice a week. And then this triggered men's mental health issues. And there was a moment I work for Purdue University. And I was sitting outside the ROTC building and looking at the armory, and I wasn't suicidal. But in that moment, I knew how a veteran could get to the point of killing themselves and committing suicide, it was just I completely understood it. And I had this massive support system, and I still could like completely understand it. And so at that point, my amazing husband and I have an amazing PCM through the VA, it was just the whole channels that were the really big issue. And we made an appointment with her and my husband was just like, because every time and I don't know if this is a veteran thing or just anything, I could talk about the physical issues, but then it was like I was okay, the mental issues, I was okay. Like, by the time I got through, it was like, I don't want to hassle her with something else. Because we're having so much to fight through already for the physical and my husband was just like, you know, we she really thinks that she needs a mental evaluation or a counselor or something, because she's not feeling right mentally. And that led me to get diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety and depression. So I started counseling through the VA, which was amazing. And I'm a huge advocate for that and the cognitive therapy process. But in that process, you know, I was just like, I'm going through this, and I have this huge support system, I can't imagine those who don't. And because it was so tied to being a female in the Marine Corps, my gender did not matter. It just didn't matter the way it did. All of a sudden, in the civilian world. It was like females, we don't know what to do to you. I mean, every appointment I had at the VA, somebody made a comment about my gender. When I went in for a colonoscopy, the nurse didn't even think to tell me that I would have to take a pregnancy test. So I went to the restroom as soon as I got there. And then he was like, Oh, you need to take a pregnancy test. And I said I've been here for 30 minutes. And I asked before I even went to the bathroom if that was needed. And nobody said anything. And so it was just like, Oh, we don't know how to handle females. I've heard that so many times. And so when that I knew that there was something I needed to do locally. And so I started an organization for women veterans to better integrate them into the community and help change that perception. Because I think a lot of it is a misperception. And so it created a women's veterans group, you know, a support group that we do closed sessions, and then we do quarterly open sessions to anybody in the community so that we can try and bridge those gaps and integrate them again because again, gender didn't matter until I was out of the Marine Corps and all of a sudden, it mattered a lot. And that really bothered me. So my transition. I say that all the time. Like I wouldn't wish that upon anybody. And that's the whole reason almost for everything I do now. And the whole reason why I'm running for office, or at least the initial push For me running for office.
Amanda Huffman 15:02
Yeah, I think that's really interesting because I never really thought about I mean, I guess I've thought about the fact that gender doesn't matter the way that people think it does in the military, like they, they're hiring on the whole, like women in combat thing and like act like that made the whole military a certain way when it was like people didn't really talk about like, when I deployed in 2010, no one really talked about that. It wasn't until like when they changed the law or so they were gonna change the law that everyone was like talking about it. And then no one was talking about, like, why it was changed here, just like there's a total disconnect. And that's interesting, because I've interviewed a lot of Marines feel that way that there's like no difference, especially when you're out on a deployment, and they have to rely on you if you do your job, I don't care what your gender is, and that sort of thing. So that's really interesting.
Tabitha Bartley 15:53
And don't get me wrong, my story is completely unique to me. And I am a huge advocate for that as well, that just because, you know, one veteran doesn't mean that, you know, all of a sudden, everything about every veterans experience or military experience, because our experiences are so different. But for me, it just my gender didn't matter. When I did, it was actually more of a positive, you know, on the recruiting side of the house. It was like amazing for young women to feel like they had someone to look up to and somebody to ask questions that maybe they didn't feel comfortable asking a male recruiter and so it's just really hard for all of a sudden to be such a negative thing. And again, I was a sexual assault victim advocate in the Marine Corps. So not saying that there weren't issues in the Marine Corps in the military in regards to that by any means. It was just for me personally, my gender, it didn't matter.
Amanda Huffman 16:38
Exactly, yes. Yeah. And that's the whole point of the podcast is when we can hear the stories of military women, we can learn that they're all different. They have different experiences, different things that were bad things. And our stories are unique. And it's cool how they intertwine and like we can connect together and build community. But also, they're so different, which is even more amazing, because the differences also bring us together. So let's talk a little bit about what you're doing. And like why you're running. You said it's it came from your transition and like how you were treated as a female. But why did you decide this election cycle to run for Indiana seats? And
Tabitha Bartley 17:14
So I was actually doing a podcast talking about what I was doing with women veterans. And at the end of it, it was another female veteran, she had asked if I had ever considered running for office. And funny enough, I think it was like four or five months before I had gone to a local event that was just like if you want to run for office, but it was very hyper-local positions. And I was just like, those positions just don't seem right for me. And it No, like politics isn't for me. I'm too blind. I mean, they called me blonde Bartley in the Marine Corps like that. Yeah, yeah, I can't, like politics isn't for me, I'll have to figure out another way to make change happen. But she had run previously. And so she just had an insight. And she was just like, you know, the state of Tennessee is up in your district, it covers not your hometown, but where you currently live, as well. And all these counties that you're very familiar with, and these issues that you're advocating for already. She was like, you know, not to be pushy, but like, maybe you should, maybe you should look into it. And there's an organization called 25 women for 2020 in Indiana that is trying to get more women elected into office because we obviously do not have very many women elected into office and Indiana, and we have a lot of issues that face women specifically that are not being addressed. And so that night, I brought it up to my husband, I was like this first off, like as a family. Is this even like, can we do it? You know, we have three children. We just moved back here not too long ago, I guess at this point. It's been a year. And he was just like, do it like our kids are the perfect age like, don't you think there's a reason there are all these signs, like all these things telling you to do it. And so it was just like, you're right. But I was working full time. And like I've said it before, my husband is a stay at home dad. So then I had to call my employer and make sure that I could run, stay employed and stay employed, even if elected. And they were like, yeah, no issues, don't use our assets. And it was like, Oh, I wouldn't even think about that. Okay, thank you. Great. And so it was literally the last day that I could file which was like Friday, and you had to file before noon, and I had to drive an hour and a half to Indianapolis and then an hour and a half back White County where I live to file there as well. And it just made sense for my personality. I think the State Senate position makes way more sense for my leadership skills and what I feel like I'm really good at and there were no democrats running. So I essentially wouldn't have to face somebody in the primary since I was deciding so late in the race. So that was a big indicator for me that it gave me some time to kind of learn more what I was doing campaign wise. And so I decided to run for State Senate.
Amanda Huffman 19:50
That's awesome. I kind of like the like last minute, that's the way I am. I'm like, oh, let's just do it. All the doors are open and let's go for it. So that's really cool that it all works. worked out so that you could sign up. So what have you learned? while you've been campaigning? Have you been able to learn about like the people of Indiana more or just been more passionate about what you've been doing? What have you learned so far?
Tabitha Bartley 20:12
I think, luckily, I was already very familiar with my district. And this is where I was born and raised. I live about 45 minutes from where I was born and raised. But this is the community that I spent all my time in. And I've learned more about the community. But I think the biggest thing is instead, I got validation that like the reason why I wanted to run because I felt like we needed more servant leaders and those positions. And that's what we're not getting, we're not getting people who are more concerned about doing the right thing than doing the partisan or adhering to that. And so I have a huge issue with that, as well as being proactive and assertive, I again, I've said, I'm not a politician, I don't think that we should do PR stunt type stuff. And I've been an advocate that my campaign from day one, we're going to make change happen. I'm not waiting till I'm elected in November. And so I have used my marketing skills from the Marine Corps and kind of changed them up for campaigning and done a lot of things kind of different. And so I focused on like Indiana celebrated the women Veterans Day, for the first time, our elected officials did nothing, there was no recognition. And I organized a women Veterans Day Parade at our Indiana Veterans Home, we had our local Black Lives Matter March, and I organized a group of veterans to just kind of have an egress route because we had a lot of children in churches, organizations and in organizations like that, who wanted to participate. And we wanted to make sure that there was a safety measure to weigh in. So that's kind of what the whole campaign has been about is making that change happen now and having those hard conversations, because a lot of times, I feel like politicians are too scared to talk about things. And then that's when things don't get resolved. I'm not scared to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. I'd rather be proactive and really making stuff happen. And if it's not the right thing, then I'll admit that I was wrong. And we'll find the right solution together.
Amanda Huffman 22:01
That's really refreshing to hear from someone running for public office. I think that's great. And I love that you're out campaigning by doing instead of like making promises, you're like, I'm making promises, because I'm already doing it. I'm not gonna wait, my being involved in the community isn't hinged on the median. And elected is just going to empower me to do more stuff. So that's really great.
Tabitha Bartley 22:22
Yeah. And that was the whole question at the end of this campaign. Do I feel like I've done enough. And for me, it's not just about how many phone calls I made or doors I knocked on which we're not knocking on doors right now. But it's how many people have I been able to impact how much change Have I been able to make happen, and especially in the veteran community, there is a lot of things that even I didn't know the last year being kind of obsessed with the veteran community in Indiana, there have been so many things that even I didn't know that I'm just like, appalled with. And there are simple solutions that we're not doing on the state level, or, again, the politics play that I just don't believe in, I see it a lot. And I just think that somebody has to be willing to change it and to act differently and not be a politician.
Amanda Huffman 23:06
Yeah. And I heard a speech by Mark, and I can't remember his last name, but he was talking about how veterans are trained in a way to work with people that they don't agree with and come across, not party lines. But that's what it is, like, come across party lines and find the solution. Because in the military, you're forced to work with your co-workers and make the mission happen. And there is no excuse I don't like so. And that's not an excuse. If you have a mission, you have to get it done. And you learn to work with people who are different than you in a way that I think a lot of people who aren't the military is such a diverse group, that there's always people that are different than you are I think more veteran should get involved in politics.
Tabitha Bartley 23:46
And I agree, and I think that that's also my strongest asset. You know, I'm a firm believer that nobody teaches leadership better than the Marine Corps. And that's not a hit on any other branch of service. I'm just a very advocate on, you know, our leadership traits, our leadership principles, and how much we're taught. And I made the comment I remembered who I was talking to, but I was talking to somebody that, you know, I was always the lowest ranking in every billet in the unit, the lowest ranking I was literally within 120 Marines. I was the only corporal I was the only corporal in the whole command yet I ran a program and had to get master sergeants, staff, surgeons, and gunnies to essentially believe in what I said, and I didn't just pull a seat up to the table. I demanded. They hear my voice, but I earned their respect. And it was by my leadership skills, and by me and yes, I had to learn tax and I was not perfect. Anybody will tell you that, you know, blunt Bartley had to learn a little bit of tax, but the Marine Corps set me up in a way that I don't I just don't think I could have gotten it at least personally, by going any other route. And I think we need more of that, especially at our you know, in our state senate and within our local politics because you have to take the politics out of it. There are so many issues that are non-partisan and that we are turning partisan and then nothing gets done.
Amanda Huffman 25:00
Yeah, that's true, unfortunately. Well, I'm really excited for you. I've been watching you on LinkedIn. And it's been really fun to see another woman veteran out making change. And it's been I'm really excited to see what's gonna happen. And I love the focus like you said, they're making non-partisan issues partisan, and then nothing's getting done. So I can't wait to see what happens in November and what you do, no matter if you get elected or not. I know it'll be great. So let's talk a little bit about what would you say to someone who is considering running for office in the future or getting involved in politics at their local level,
Tabitha Bartley 25:39
I think the first thing is understanding what your priorities are and what your skill sets are. For me, I very much knew what my skill sets and leadership wise. So those really hyperlocal positions, I didn't think that they fit well enough within my skill set. And when I was looking at State Senate, it just it that seemed to be where I could better assert myself and better utilize those leadership skills I have, as well as the oversight I have, and specifically, like my top priorities in my campaign are we need to better support our public education system, we need more accessible and accountable veteran support, and we need a better quality of life for all. And I feel that that is something that I as a woman who has fought with, you know, fighting for women's care, as a mother, as a veteran, and somebody who went to public school, that these are things that not only am I able to listen to what the issues are, but I've experienced them personally, as well. And I think specifically why it's so important to have military in these positions is troop welfare, right mission accomplishment, and troop welfare, and you can't, you can't accomplish one without the other. And I feel like a lot of times, that's what we are missing. When we're coming and trying to come up with solutions. Instead of focusing on you know, here's our left to right ladder or limits, here's what we need to accomplish. Again, the partisan issues just really get in the way to where nothing happens instead. And also the hesitancy to fully talk about things. Every Thursday, I do a Facebook Live when we discuss something that is local to either Indiana or my district, specifically, sometimes even to one city, and we have hard conversations about it. We have hard conversations about mental health and PTSD. And we have hard conversations about schools opening in an open forum where people feel like they can actually ask all of their questions. A lot of times as I've gone through my district and talk to people, they don't even feel like they can have a conversation without being attacked. Or if they say the wrong thing, or say something the wrong way that then their message won't get heard. And so I think that that's something that veterans are really good about having a full conversation because like you said earlier in the military, you come from all over. And even if you don't like each other, there's a respect level, right? That you have to have a conversation or to get those ideas and bounce things off of each other. And so I think that's why it's really important to have veterans but I also feel like the proactive step not being reactive to everything. And I feel like at least for Indiana, a lot of it is reactive instead of proactively looking out there. So first step, get your toes wet, somehow, you can volunteer on campaigns, you can be a part of campaigns. There's a lot of different nonprofit organizations nowadays, which is really nice, that is nonpartisan, that show you the ropes or different ways and volunteer to get people to register to vote, I think that is you want to get involved in politics, then we need people to vote and being an advocate for getting people to vote and registers is a huge part of it.
Amanda Huffman 28:36
Yeah, that's great. I love that you're getting people together to have the hard conversations, because I think social media is one of the like driving factors that separated us so much where people are like talking to or typing out a response. And they really don't think about the fact that it's like a person that they're attacking like, it's not a screen, it's like an actual person. And when you have these like heart to heart conversations, and you're in an open space, you can realize that like, we're actually more the same than we are different. Like we might have this one difference, but it's just where we probably want the same thing. We're just trying to get there from two different ways. And like maybe we can build a bridge and find that commonality instead of being like, I'll be over here. You'll be over here. And then there's this giant canyon. So I think that's great.
Tabitha Bartley 29:26
Yeah, and I make sure with those I share the screen so people have an opportunity to actually speak instead of typing or if they leave a comment. I just thank them for that comment. And I bring that comment up during the Facebook Live so that it can be better dissected or just better you know like you said when you type it doesn't want it doesn't even come out how you want half the time or the tone that you would like it to have. And so I've noticed just a really good reaction to that because people and again, I have people with all sorts of different views, which is the beauty of it is that we are having these conversations, but you have To be a facilitator, and I think as a leader, you have to know how to facilitate those hard conversations. And I think that, again, this campaign is about showing what I actually can do and what change is going to be made. And I think that that is a huge asset when you have a leader who can facilitate these hard conversations.
Amanda Huffman 30:17
Yeah, that's great. I'm gonna end it with one last question, which is that question I asked all my guests, what advice would you give to young women who are considering joining the military?
Tabitha Bartley 30:28
The very first thing is to challenge your perception and what you perceive the military to be and get the correct information and get as much information as you can. I worked at the recruiting station, you know, for a little over four years, and there was so much information, especially when it came to females and what they thought the military was like, or what they thought the Marine Corps was like. I'm a huge advocate for the Marine Corps, obviously, because I love the Marine Corps, but nobody joins the Marine Corps for those tangibles. It's the intangibles. And that's something really specific to the Marine Corps, that the military isn't for everybody. But I think everybody needs to be properly informed on the military as an option. And I think that as a state senator, that that's something I really want to advocate as a veteran that I've been advocating, because that's the start, you don't know what you don't know. And I can't tell you how many educators who attended the workshop females who said that if they had known what the Marine Corps was like that they would have joined the Marine Corps first, not that they would have been a lifer. But they would have joined at least four years had college paid for and then gone to be an educator. And someone was pretty sad that you know, it was later in life and that they couldn't go back and do it. So that's the first thing is to challenge your perceptions and your misconceptions. And don't take one person story is the only story, as you said before one veterans experience is their experience, and every veteran has a different experience. But if I for me, it's the intangibles, those are the things that really tells you if you should join the military and which branch of service, that's really what's going to change that perspective for you on which branch is the right branch for you.
Amanda Huffman 32:06
Yeah, that's great advice. And if you listen to the podcast, hopefully, you know, I have a girls guide to the military on my website. And I'll link to it in the show notes. If you want to get it. It's just a series of questions that I wish I would have known to ask before I joined the military. And I'm really excited that I can help women by sharing not only my story, but the stories of other women through the podcast. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today. I really enjoyed learning more about like what you're doing. And I'm excited to see how this energy energizes and excites the veteran community to get more involved in politics. And maybe more people will step up and run and try and find that middle ground and make a big change.
Tabitha Bartley 32:48
Thank you so much for having me. And one thing I always like to bring up before we end, because it's obviously an issue that's near and dear to my heart. But in Indiana, we have 33,000 women veterans and only 5000 of them utilize the VA health care system, there is a statistic that was released that women veterans are 80% more likely to commit suicide if they are not within the VA health care system. So any woman that is in Indiana or anywhere, please reach out and find your support of veterans, if you're in Indiana, reach out to me and I will make sure that that you have the assets you need. And that we can help you because that number is such a staggering number. And it's so concerning. And it speaks volumes to a lot of the veteran issues we have here in Indiana, and there are a lot of very simple solutions to these problems that we just have to start advocating for. But every time I speak with veterans, I bring that up and I bring that number and even the males are so shocked by it. And you know, just how are we allowing this to happen type thing. And so I always bring that up, because I don't think that veterans are the marginalized community that we think they are and I also don't believe in using veterans as PR stunts. I think actual change needs to happen there.
Amanda Huffman 33:56
Yeah, and I've heard the statistic of like, women veterans are the highest and like the worst tech, like all the bad categories, like homeless Yeah. thing. So we're trying to make a change. So tabletas information will be in the show notes so that you can get connected with her and you can also reach out to me I'm I am one of those women veterans not in the VA system because I didn't do what I was supposed to visit. I know what I was doing. And so I'm not very well versed, but I can at least connect you with the right people. So thank you so much. Thank you for having me. Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Women of the Military Podcast Do you love all things Women in the Military Podcast become a subscriber so you never miss an episode and consider leaving a review. It really helps people find the podcast and helps the podcast to grow. Are you still listening? You can be a part of the mission of telling the stories of military women by joining me on firstname.lastname@example.org slash women of the military or you can order my book women of the military On Amazon every dollar helps to continue the work I am doing. Are you a business owner? Do you want to get your product or service in front of the Woman of the Military Podcast audience get in touch with a woman of the military podcast team to learn more all the links on how you can support Women of the Military Podcasts are located in the show notes. Thanks again for listening and for your support.