Women of the Military

Understanding Female Veterans Statistics with Kate Hendricks

Episode Summary

How can information about female veterans statistics help women veterans? Dr. Kate Hendricks believes that with information and stories researchers can take the information provided by women veterans in this study to help not only women veterans but future generations of women veterans. 

Episode Notes

This episode was sponsored by Gracefully Global Group:

Do you LOVE audiobooks? Wish they were available for children’s picture books? Well, you’re going to LOVE this! At woman-veteran-owned educational publishing firm Gracefully Global Group, we’ve created an innovative VIDEO audiobook of Captain Mama's Surprise, book 2 in the award-winning Captain Mama series. Read by author Graciela Tiscanero-Sato, with cool sound effects! As little Marco and classmates tour the flying gas station where his Captain Mama works, you'll see all of Linda Lens' illustrations. The award-winning series was inspired by Graciela'ss decade of aviation service. Have the book at home? Your child can follow along as I read! Buy the video audiobook for only $7.07 today. Click here. There you’ll find books and companion patches too!

The Marine Corps was in Kate's blood. As a Marine Corps brat, she decided to join the military and originally picked the Air Force. But after a year as part of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Program she wanted to switch to the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps felt like home. So she switched from AF ROTC to Marine Corps ROTC which is run under the Navy ROTC program.

When she picked her career field she knew she wanted to help people so she picked Military Police or Public Affairs. She was excited when she was selected for military police. But found the work challenging because she found herself helping people on their worst day or in some really hard circumstances. She decided not to continue to serve in the military but before leaving she deployed to Iraq. She loved her job overseas in Iraq. There she found a sense of purpose and felt she was contributing to the mission of the military. She also made really good friends.

A change in direction

When she came home from her deployment her brother had been injured in Iraq and she spent most of her 30 days of post-deployment leave with him at the hospital. It began a spark to led her to where she is today. She also decided to serve another tour of service.

When she left the military originally she began working at a fitness center but found the job more focused on meeting quotas and the people who could afford the help of one on one coaching didn't really need this. This led her on a path of holistic medicine and healing. She began a career in health science. She eventually received her Ph.D. And today she studies evidence-based mental physical and peak performance. She has put her work in her books. Her latest book is called Stopping Military Veteran Suicides and is told through stories and research.

Female Veterans Statistics

She is also currently working with the University of Alabama and other women veterans and women veterans advocates for a study on accessing the needs of  US women who have served in the Armed Forces. Over 3,000 women veterans have taken the survey so far. If you would like to provide your thoughts click here.

There is already evidence for higher cancer rates in women for breast cancer and reproduction. So it is important to take care of your health and begin regular health screenings even earlier than recommended. Kate's doctor recommended a mammogram when she was 38 and is now fighting stage four cancer. She said that doctor added years to her life and encourages women to take their health seriously.

Connect with Kate:



Mentioned in this episode:

Women veteran study

Books (affiliate links):

Stopping Military Suicides

Brave Strong True

Related episodes:

Looking at Military Transition from a Different Perspective - Episode 125

An Invisible Combat Veteran's Story - Episode 90

The Pressure to Proove Yourself in the Marines - Episode 94

Check out the full transcript here.  

Thank you to my Patreon Sponsor Col Level and above:
Kevin Barba, Adriana Keefe, Lorraine Diaz

Thank you Patreon members for your support. Want early access to episodes, ad-free content, and one on one mentorship advice? Become a Patreon member today! Click here.   

Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman00:00

Welcome to Episode 132 of the women of the military podcast. This week my guest is Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas. She is a Behavioral Medicine researcher and master certified Health Education Specialist. She studies evidence based mental fitness and peak performance and is the author of several books. Kate is passionate about education and teachers for George Mason's University Department of global and community health. In today's interview, we talked about the work she's doing today and her time in the Marine Corps. There is currently a study being done by the University of Alabama that is assessing the needs of women who have served in the US Armed Forces. I've taken the survey and it was short and easy to do. And Kate is one of the women behind the study and we talk about it and its importance in this interview as well. So with that, let's get started with this week. You're listening to season three of the women on the military podcast Here you will find the real stories of female service members. I'm Amanda Huffman, I am an Air Force veteran, military spouse and mom. Hi Korean women in the military podcast in 2019. As a place to share the stories of female service members 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 on the military. And now word from our sponsor. 


Graciela Tiscareno-Sato  01:42

Hi, I'm Air Force veteran and author Graziella skriniar Sato Do you love audio books wish they were available for children's picture books? Well, you are going to love this. Woman veteran owned educational publishing firm, gracefully global group, we've created an innovative video audio book of Captain mama surprise book two in the award winning Captain mama series read by yours truly with cool sound effects as little Marco and his classmates toward the flying gas station where his Captain mama works. You'll see all of Linda lenses his illustrations, the award winning series was inspired by my decade of Aviation Service, have the book at home your child can follow along as I read by the video audio book for only 707 at gracefully global.com slash commerce. There you'll find the books and companion patches to please share this info with parent and teacher friends. Thanks at gracefully global group, we are in the business of inspiration. Let's get back to


Amanda Huffman02:40

Let's get back to the show. Welcome to the show. Kade. I'm excited to have you here.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  02:45

Thank you very much for having me. I'm looking forward to it.


Amanda Huffman02:48

So let's start with why did you decide to join the Marines?


Kate Hendricks Thomas  02:51

So I make the joke that it was the 11th commandment in my family that thou shalt join the Marine Corps because my dad was a Marine Corps infantry officer. And he very much brought the Marine Corps home when we were kids, I can remember going on family runs, and he would call cadence and turn it into kind of a military adventure. And we loved it. You know, we always lived on bases. The Marine Corps felt like home to me. It's what I grew up around. It's the people I was used to end joining wasn't even a thought I just knew it's what I wanted to do.


Amanda Huffman03:23

That's really interesting. So when did you decide that you were going to join the Marines was that when you were really young, or when you're graduating high school?


Kate Hendricks Thomas  03:30

When I was graduating high school, I decided that I was going to join the military. And I originally was going to join the Air Force. So I got signed up with college ROTC and started started doing Air Force training. And what I found was that I always assumed that military culture was the same across service branches, but it's wildly different. And I had grown up around the Marine Corps culture, and that's what I really wanted to I guess that's where I was just most comfortable. So after a year of training to be an Air Force cadet, I switched programs and started training with the Marines.


Amanda Huffman04:07

Okay, that's really interesting. That's interesting that you did Air Force ROTC, and then you were like, yeah, this isn't for me. I'm in the Marine Corps. So how is that process to switch from doing an Air Force ROTC program to the Marine Corps?


Kate Hendricks Thomas  04:21

Well, it was a little bit of paperwork, a lot of convincing people that it was a good idea. But it was really just a question of shifting scholarship money from one service branch to the next and they were able to make that happen for me. They did that. When I was joining the Air Force. I never really had an intention to fly. I kind of wanted to go into security policing. But I took the AF o Qt, which is their screening test for pilots. And I just did a dismal job. And one of the instructors came out and said Hendricks Do you want to be a pilot? And I said, Oh no, sir. And he said good. I wasn't a fit for the Air Force. I was much more fit in the Marine Corps?


Amanda Huffman05:01

Yeah, I took the AFL Qt and I did this Moy pilot section. It was very humbling, I think in the math and the writing.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  05:12

But yes, first time I'd ever tested so badly on something. I fancied myself kind of a good test taker. And it was very humbling.


Amanda Huffman05:20

I just remember taking it and the like, the plane, like it was like which way and I was like, I don't know. Hey, yeah, yeah. 


Kate Hendricks Thomas  05:28

All the spatial awareness questions.


Amanda Huffman05:30

Yeah, I was like, I have no idea what you're talking about. And I didn't want to be a pilot. So I was just like, I don't care. Yeah. I told someone my score. And they were like, so you don't want to be a pilot? And I was like, No, no way.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  05:42

Yeah. But that's always I think that was always treated with surprise in the Air Force, because so many folks wanted to go into aviation. Right.


Amanda Huffman05:49

That is it's true. I had really bad eyes. So I guess I was like, I knew I wasn't going to be a pilot before I join. Mm hmm. So you were able to make the switch from the Air Force ROTC program into the Marine Corps and is the Marine Corps ROTC or I just don't really know how Marine Corps officers I know that you can do Navy ROTC and then become marine. But is there other ways


Kate Hendricks Thomas  06:11

There is the Marine Corps ROTC program, it falls under the Navy's ROTC programs. You apply directly to the Marine Corps for the scholarships. The training is a little bit different, they call them marine options. Those midshipmen will do different training than their Navy counterparts do, they'll they'll add on a lot of field work and probably a lot more physical fitness, you know, group activities, that sort of thing. But it was a really great experience in college because it really gave me structure. It kept me healthy. I had to go to bed at a decent hour because I had to be at morning workouts at 530. So I had to take care of myself. And it really helped me navigate the college landscape. I thought it was it was a great opportunity, because I knew with all my heart that I wanted to join the military. And it was a way for me to go to college as well.


Amanda Huffman07:04

Yeah, that really resonates with me. So you did the Marine Corps ROTC program under the Navy ROTC and then you commissioned into the Marine Corps. What was that like? And what was your job? 


Kate Hendricks Thomas  07:16

Well, I commissioned in the Marine Corps right after graduation in 2002 at the University of Virginia. It was a wonderful weekend. I remember being so excited. I had, I had this new humanities degree and I felt like I was about to just go go run the world. I went immediately after commissioning to the basic School, which is a six month basic rifleman basic infantry officer. It's the basics of how to lead Marines in the field for six months, and everybody does it. And in the last portion of the basic school, you get your Military Occupational Specialty, and I decided I would be a good fit. I wanted to be either a military police officer or a public affairs officer. They do very different things. But I thought I like people. I like talking to people, both of those will be a good fit for me. I got military police, which I was excited about the training was interesting. And my very first billet was with the Provost marshal's office. So I was doing garrison law enforcement, which I thought was going to be great. It turns out if you like people, law enforcement is a really tough line of work. Because you show up on everybody's worst day I showed up when someone had just beat up their 14 year old step kid or gotten a career ending DUI. I'm there when somebodies career and you know, family and life is falling apart. And I thought it was really, really hard. When I deployed I deployed with the second military police Battalion, and I loved that work. But garrison law enforcement wasn't a fit for me. So I knew I wasn't going to stay in the Marine Corps long term.


Amanda Huffman08:51

Yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. You think like, Oh, I'm a police officer. I'm here to help people. But a lot of what police officers do is help people in their worst moments. So it makes it really challenging.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  09:01

I've just it's very uplifting, when you get to help somebody through a car accident and you know, make them comfortable, you know, following an incident that's uplifting, but there was so much that you do that's truly policing and it's punitive in nature. And it does. It makes it hard because it's a little disappointing to see what folks are capable of.


Amanda Huffman09:22

So let's talk a little bit more about your deployment. What were you doing overseas and where were you? So


Kate Hendricks Thomas  09:28

I deployed with the second military police Battalion, I was based out of Fallujah, Iraq in 2005. And I was a liaison officer to to math, so I had a lot of different roles. We did security convoys that ran between the Ford operating bases. So we we plotted the logistics convoys that were running up and down the road with the big trucks. We had military working dogs that were doing both that were doing explosives work. We also had civilian contractors who were using working Dogs and we actually started a program of contract working dogs, and they were based out of Baghdad, I was working with some of the best people that I've ever met. And I loved my deployment. For that reason, the work felt it felt like we were at the center of history, it felt like we were doing something that mattered, it felt like we would do anything for each other. And the camaraderie was unbelievable. Two of my best friends to this day, were lieutenants that I was deployed with. And we're still we're still very close.


Amanda Huffman10:31

That's awesome. I have a group of friends that I'm really close for my deployment with.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  10:36

There's something about that you just spend all that time together. And it's it's very bonding.


Amanda Huffman10:42

Yeah, that's so true. So you knew really like right into being in the Marine Corps that you weren't going to stay in, because you didn't like the at home job like the garrison. So throughout the at homes, so were you planning your transition out, or were you like most military people waiting till it was time to get out, and then start planning.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  11:06

So I planned my transition out, I truly did plan it. But there's a large but at the end of that statement, I was barking up the wrong tree professionally. So it had always been my hobby to teach group fitness classes spinning and step aerobics. And I was very into fitness. That was my personal hobby. And I thought, because I loved fitness so much that I would love working in the fitness industry. So the very first job that I got, when I left, the Marine Corps was as a fitness director for a large sport, sporting and health club. And what I found working in fitness is you're working with people, you're motivating them, you're supporting them, it's all very positive, but the people that can afford you are the people that don't need you the most, right. So by sense of purpose really suffered in the fitness industry, because what I was focused on was sales quotas. And you know, getting more people into training and into group exercise classes. And a lot of the people that were financially able to take advantage of those things, didn't really need the one on one professional instruction. So I just I started leaning more and more towards education, because what I liked about the fitness industry was teaching, I liked instructing and helping people find a new way to do things. But I really put a lot of time and effort into starting out as a fitness specialist when what I really wanted to do was public health. When I really enjoyed my brother got injured in Iraq, and I started doing some work with other injured veterans, wounded veterans, adaptive yoga, adaptive CrossFit, things of that nature. And the more I looked into adaptive wellness for veterans, I realized that it's not just athletes whose bodies have changed that need support and veteran services. It's also people coming back with invisible wounds, people coming back lonely and isolated. So I really started looking at veteran health through a more holistic lens and getting my degree in health promotion. And eventually my my doctorate in the same field helped me understand that if you want to do outreach and programming that really makes a difference in the lives of veterans, you have to intelligently do that outreach and programming. It can't just be something that popped into your head and was a good idea. You want to be doing evidence based practice. And so that's what I work on. today. I work on military and veteran health. I'm a researcher, and I love absolutely love what I do now.


Amanda Huffman13:33

Yeah. So let's talk a little bit about what you're doing today. Because I, I think that's so fascinating that you went on that journey after you transition because I think I liked how you said I plan but and I feel like veterans, especially if you've been in, the longer you're in, I think the harder it is you can't see what life is like on the civilian side until you're in that job doing that role. And then like finding your path forward. So you were working at the fitness club, and you just weren't finding your passion. And then you started to learn more about holistic medicine and and how did that lead you to helping veterans? I know you mentioned your brother got injured. But how did that change your whole trajectory of your life?


Kate Hendricks Thomas  14:18

Well, as I was starting, so I came back from my deployment and I was supposed to get out I had been in for four years. But after my deployment, I knew there was no way I could leave the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps was still at war. Our country may not have been at war, but we were and I was going to align myself with the people that were participating. I took another billet and another assignment. And I was at a Recruit Depot where I was a series and a company commander and I had all of these amazing opportunities to train recruits. I was teaching and training and, and really watching young women develop into, you know, much stronger, faster, tougher versions of themselves. It was it was very it was wonderful. is a fantastic place to, to kind of end your career on an uplifting note, I really, really enjoyed that. But I would say that my time, my brother was wounded and spent some time at Bethesda Naval Hospital. And when he was there, I had just gotten back from deployment. So I had 30 days of post deployment leave. And I spent that at the hospital that time at the hospital completely changed my life, because I was watching my my people, my colleagues coming in with life changing injuries and wounds, and I was watching their families hurt or struggle to be there for them. I was just watching all of that happen. And it It made me want to work with wounded veterans very powerfully, because I saw the need. And I also thought that veterans sometimes take instruction. And sometimes we respond well to each other, maybe a little better than people that haven't served. So I think it's important that veterans get involved in the veteran service and military service landscape, because pure leadership matters. And we have a responsibility to the young men and young women that come after us. We can be old husbands, that's fine. But we still have something of value to share. And it's our job to do that.


Amanda Huffman16:13

Yeah, I found a passion for helping the next generation of military women because I just want to help them in their journey, because the military gave so much to me, and I want women to have that opportunity. So I mean, it makes sense that that passion that you found, then made it so that your life ended up the way it is now. Yeah,


Kate Hendricks Thomas  16:34

Yeah. Well, and one of the things that I think is interesting, there's this question in academic research about researcher positionality. Is the researcher ever really objective about the subject they're researching? And I don't believe I don't believe that there is such a thing as objectivity in research. So it's nice to do work that I'm personally that I'm personally attached to, because it helps me do better work. 


Amanda Huffman17:00

So how did you end up becoming an author and writing books?


Kate Hendricks Thomas  17:05

Yeah, that's a great question. I worked really hard to get my terminal degree. And I found that writing and publishing, I started blogging a little bit, I started writing journal articles. And I found that writing and publishing was a really great way to reach people with my ideas about mental health promotion. So if I wrote a blog, for we are the mighty are task and purpose, a lot of the people that I would want to read it did. So I just started getting interested in writing as a means of communicating programming ideas. The first book I wrote, I had worked on for several years, but then I really intensely buckled down for four months, to put it all together. And it was it was brave, strong, true, the modern warriors battle for balance. And it's about resiliency, and how to how not just to treat an existing mental health condition, but how to prevent one from occurring in the first place. So there's a lot of information about stress science in there.


Amanda Huffman17:59

Yeah, that's really interesting. And that's kind of the advice I give young ladies who are like, how do I write a book? And I was like, well, you start with a blog, and then you get published on different websites. And then then you can write your book.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  18:14

Yes, yes. You've got to be able to write a book proposal that will make a publisher say she has readership. Somebody will read what she writes. And everything that I've written has been so specifically about Military Health, that it's a very niche community that reads anything I write, but I'm okay with that.


Amanda Huffman18:30

Yeah, but niche community, that's another important step. You can't You can't speak to everyone, you have to speak to your your avatar and like the people that you're focused on, and the more niche you are, the more you actually reach more people. So I think I think it's great. And I was looking at your books before we did this interview. And I was like, Oh, I want that one. And so I think it's really cool that you're doing all this research, and then taking it together and putting it into a book. So is there any any other book that you wrote that you want to talk about in this podcast interview?


Kate Hendricks Thomas  19:07

Well, I would just say that you hit the nail on the head a second ago, when you talked about the way that we tried to take research and combine it with story and I just wrote a book with my I call her my work wife. She's someone I was in the Marine Corps with. She's someone I was in college with. And we've known each other for decades. But Sarah Plummer, Taylor and I wrote a book called stopping military suicides. And in that book, we talk about the way to improve mental health outcomes in military veterans and active duty personnel, but we use a lot of storytelling. So it's a very readable book. Well, I guess that's our hope is that it's a very readable book, but I think Rene browns, quote is true stories are data with a soul and that's what we're trying to do. Nobody's going to care about a public health problem unless you personalize it and put a face to the issue. So that's what we tried to do with stopping military suicide. Which is actually just out?


Amanda Huffman20:02

Yeah, that's really true. And I think that's the power of podcasting in general is that you have so many people telling stories. And then a story is so much better than a statistic or a news headline, like it's a person and you can relate to that person and find commonalities. And it doesn't it makes something like suicide or military, sexual trauma or PTSD, something real that people, especially if they have an experience that can understand.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  20:30

Absolutely, I agree with you 100% on that, and that's my, that's always been my frustration with academic research. I think it matters a lot. But an academic research article is going to be read by other academics. So you unless you're turning your research into blogs, and policy papers and congressional testimony, your research isn't having the impact that it could have. And so I like the term translational research. So everything that I tried to read and write, I tried to convey via multiple channels.


Amanda Huffman20:59

Yeah, I just got an email in the last week from someone and they were like, here's our research paper, will you share it with your audience? And I'm like, this is a foreign language like I, I don't even know what to tell my audience. Because it doesn't make sense to me. I was like, Can you tell me what I supposed to tell my audience? Because this is just numbers on a page. And I don't understand, like, why, why this matters to me, like why do these numbers mean anything?


Kate Hendricks Thomas  21:23

Right? And that's the problem with academic research is you've got to have a translational component. So research is supposed to inform programming or outreach or policy, it's supposed to do something. And otherwise, there's no point. There's no point in writing and publishing it.


Amanda Huffman21:39

Yeah. So speaking of studies, you're working with the University of Alabama for a woman veteran focus study, can you tell us about what you guys are trying to learn and how you guys are going to take that information to do whatever you do with?


Kate Hendricks Thomas  21:56

I'm part of this large national needs assessment of women veterans, and I'm really excited about it. We're, it's out of the University of Alabama's office for evaluation research. And we have a team that includes other women veterans on the research team. And what we did was we put together a survey using questions that the bush Institute created, and then a bunch of and then some other questions that we pulled from, from various places. And we've gotten about 3000 people to take the survey so far. And what we're going to do with the data is share it right away. So we're going to give reports and raw data to the veteran service organizations that helped us distribute the survey. So if you helped us get the survey out there, you get to share in the survey results. Some of these organizations are big, and they have research departments, they have people that can run the statistics and run the raw data for them. And some of them are smaller organizations that are going to need help doing that. And we're going to provide that help. Really excited about the response rate. So far, this builds upon some needs assessment work that we've done in 2016 and 2017, with the service women's Action Network, but our sample sizes are looking bigger this time. So there's there's some really interesting work we can do with this, we hope


Amanda Huffman23:12

Yeah, and the link for that survey will be in the show notes. So if someone's listening, and they want to take it, I've taken it. So I think you should take it needs. 


Kate Hendricks Thomas  23:21

Me too. It is a quick survey. It's very quick. We did the the central module of the survey, we kept it short. And we made it so that you could be done after the quick first part, or you could answer more questions if you felt like it. And obviously we would we were really happy when people answer the other modules. But we wanted to make sure that it wasn't one of those long, long surveys that people stopped taking halfway through.


Amanda Huffman23:43

Yeah, I did the first part. And then I was like, Oh, that's it. They want more. Okay, sure, I'll do and I did it on one sitting and I took less than 20 minutes. I don't even remember how long it was.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  23:54

Well, thank you for doing the extra modules. That's very cool of you.


Amanda Huffman23:57

I love surveys. I'm a survey. I like doing surveys, but I don't understand what the research means. But I like doing them. And I think it's important to provide your feedback. It's especially like a women focus women veteran focus survey, because the other reason that the other survey didn't mean as much to me was because it was all veterans and I was like, I don't like I know, we're all veterans, but I'm just like it's not as helpful of a study and something that's women focused and touches women veteran issues, because I think there's a lot of challenges in being a woman veteran that are different than being a male. And and I think it's important to address those things.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  24:38

I agree with you completely on that. And I think it's also important to there's a difference between the active duty population and the veteran population. The needs are different, the interests are different. So there's something about specificity like really drilling down and being being able to answer questions about our sub population that is exciting and important.


Amanda Huffman25:00

Yeah, for sure. Yeah, my husband's still on active duty. And sometimes he says stuff. And I'm like, no, that's not how it works. He's just, it's just funny. It's just interesting, like how much I've changed in the years since I left the military. And he's still in. And so it's just we have a different way of looking at things. 


Kate Hendricks Thomas  25:18

Yeah I'm sure I'm sure.


Amanda Huffman25:19

So is there anything from your time in the military or the work that you're doing today that I missed that you want to cover?


Kate Hendricks Thomas  25:26

I would like to say, one, I would like to share one data point. One thing that's very important to me, get mammograms earlier than the national recommendations show. I was sent by my VA doctor to go get a mammogram at the age of 38. And I argued with her, I said, I don't need this. I'm too young. And she said, based on where you've been stationed, and based on the incidence rates of breast cancer in women veterans, I want you to go and when they screened me, they did find breast cancer. And so I'm dealing with stage four metastatic breast cancer. But that physician at the VA forcing me to get the early mammogram added years to my life, and I'll never forget it. Incidence rates for us are higher than for civilian women. I didn't know that. I didn't know there are a host of exposure related illnesses think MS, think cancers think respiratory illnesses that we are at higher risk for so pay attention to your health and think about those, those screen those screenings that we can get.


Amanda Huffman26:29

Yeah, I had a bump under my lip and I went to the doctor or the Detroit dermatologist to get it taken care of. And they were like, Can we do a skin check when you're here? And I said sure, why not. I'm already here. And they found a mole on my leg. That was stage zero melanoma. And I never would have went to the doctor except that I went because it wasn't going away. And I was worried that it was cancer. But it ended up this was nothing and don't think on my leg could have easily, you know, the doctor explained like the different type of cancers and she's like, this is a guy that doesn't go undetected and could kill you. And I was like, I I just feel really lucky. And I was doing research and found that skin cancer and women veterans is higher too. So definitely, yes. Pay attention to your your health and, and get all those screenings done yearly yearly skin checks and mammograms. And now I'm like, Okay, I need to go and get a mammogram scheduled. Yes. Yeah. Because I that was a year ago. And I it's it's still kind of freaks me out because I I would never have gotten to get a skin check. 


Kate Hendricks Thomas  27:43

then you had that happy accident. It is important. I think it's important to talk about and there was a really great hearing at the senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Last week on exposure related illnesses for OIF and OEF veterans we're starting to talk about we're starting to talk about the burn pits, we're starting to talk about some of these issues with toxic exposures and contaminated water at Camp Lejune, we're starting to have these conversations at the congressional level. And that's where their change is going to have to be made to make something a service connected condition to make it presumptively qualified actually takes an act of Congress. So I'm hoping that we're gonna jump on the burn pit illnesses and injuries faster than we did Agent Orange for the Vietnam era veterans.


Amanda Huffman28:28

Yeah, thank you for bringing that up. It's so important. And I did a podcast interview or a solo episode, or after my skin check, cuz I was like, You guys need to go. Skin? 


Kate Hendricks Thomas  28:39

Yes, absolutely. Our rates are higher in almost all types of cancer, but specifically reproductive and breast cancers are really high for us as well.


Amanda Huffman28:50

That's crazy. Well, that's important to know. I'm glad we touched on that. So my last question is, what advice would you give to young women who are considering joining the military.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  29:02

So know what you're walking into know that it's not always going to be easy, no, that you're not always going to have the respect and support that you think you should automatically get, you're going to have to earn it in every room that you walk into be a woman identified a woman, look for friends and colleagues in other female service members, support them, take care of them, and they'll be the best friends that you've ever had. They'll do anything for you, including Hydra body. So I think it's just really important to reach out to other service women. One of the things that you often see in organizations where women women are in a tiny numerical minority is they don't like one represents the actions of all and so women are much harder on each other than they would otherwise be. Don't Don't fall into those pitfalls. Really take care of the women around you and let them take care of you.


Amanda Huffman29:58

I love that advice. That's really great. The women that I'm closest with are veterans. And so that makes a lot of sense. I have a lot of really good friends. But my two really close friends are both veterans and and they're the ones that I deployed with. You know, it's a life changing experience to go on a deployment and and then the friends you make are, are the best part of going to Afghanistan. In my opinion.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  30:23

I would agree with you completely. That's what I think about when I think about Iraq, I think about I think about the strong sense of purpose that I felt I felt like what we were doing was important, and I think about the friendships with wonderful, wonderful people that would have done anything for for me.


Amanda Huffman30:37

Yeah. So thank you so much for coming on the podcast and sharing about the work that you're doing. I'm going to link to all your books and the survey in the show notes so that people can find them quickly. And thank you so much.


Kate Hendricks Thomas  30:49

Thank you. Thanks for having me.


Amanda Huffman30:55

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