Aspen to connect with female veterans | AspenTimes.com

Aspen to connect with female veterans

Abby Margulis
Special to The Aspen Times

Aspen will welcome the Sunergos Institute military program Leading With Resilience and Grace with a potluck dinner Wednesday night at the Molly Gibson Lodge.

Kari Granger, a decorated U.S. Air Force combat veteran, created the Leading With Resilience and Grace program as a member of the Sunergos Institute and in partnership with the Transformation Foundation in November 2011. Granger is a senior faculty member at the Sunergo Institute, a charitable organization based in Arlington, Ill. The nonprofit provides personal-development and leadership programs to current and past military members.

Granger saw a need to help women transition back into civilian life post-deployment and post-military after she went through the process herself.

"I have a great job," Granger said in June at the Aspen Institute. "I've reintegrated successfully. I have a great family, and … I certainly experienced difficulties coming home at one point, where you have the same dog, same house, the same spouse, same Walmart around the corner. It's meaningless, it's bland, and it's gray. I experienced the transition from military to civilian life where I feared, Who am I going to be? Who will I be when I hang up this uniform? What is my identity? What is my purpose?"

She continued, "I'm not my past. I'm not my experiences, and I'm not even my job. … It is possible to reintegrate successfully into civilian life post-deployment and post-military. It is possible."

The week's program strives to help women who have served in the military reintegrate into civilian life by providing a three-day discussion where 25 women come together in an intimate setting to learn how to deal with the challenges they are facing.

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"It's a transformational leadership program to look at their purpose in life and provide clarity for their future," said Jennifer Block, military coordinator for Leading With Resilience and Grace. "We talk about the past, and we work on not having your past predict the future and empowering these women to take an active role in the future they want to create."

Aspen will be the first Colorado city to host the eighth Leading With Resilience and Grace program. The program has been conducted all over the country, including Washington, D.C.; California; Illinois; and Oklahoma.

Women from various parts of Colorado are expected to arrive this afternoon to participate in the program beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday and ending Saturday, Block said. The women will use this time to focus on themselves and what matters to them.

"We provide a safe environment and opportunities for sharing and creating a powerful future for all the women in the room," Block said.

To conclude the program, there will be a gratitude celebration at the Aspen Meadows Resort on Saturday afternoon. This reception is the culminating event for sponsors and community members to see what these women have accomplished throughout the program.

"It's a social gathering and time for fellowship between veterans and non-veterans and for them to really experience being in the community together," Granger said Tuesday.

Aspen resident Pamela Paresky, an adjunct and research professor at the Air Force Academy, helped bring the Leading With Resilience and Grace program to Aspen. Paresky also has been an active member of the Aspen Institute Veterans Initiative, which started in March. It's Aspen's first-ever dedicated program to veterans issues, according to the Aspen Institute's website.

Paresky said it was important to bring the program to Aspen and host a potluck dinner to show these women that the community cares about them. She also said she hopes it will become an annual event in November, a month celebrating both Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.

"(This dinner) is for the women who are participating in the program to be acknowledged and welcomed by our community," Paresky said. "It's also for members of our community to interact with people from the military, which is not a common opportunity for us."

Community members are invited to arrive at 6 p.m. There is no fee; the only request is to bring a dish that can feed as many as 10 people. Women who have offered to be "Community Partners" will each bring a small gift with her name attached and will be put in a basket for a military woman to pick. The civilian community member and program participant will then sit next to each other and eat dinner together. (RSVP at wmnvets.org)

"It will be an opportunity for our community to connect with real people from the military and not just have a concept of the military," Paresky said. "(These are) some extraordinary women who were willing to make a commitment that put their lives at risk in order to serve us. I don't know what it's like to have that level of commitment or courage, and I know that we as civilians have a lot to learn from them."

Abby Margulis is an editorial intern working at The Aspen Times this fall. She is a junior at DePauw University in Indiana.

Leading with Resilience and Grace

At a glance

Wednesday, 12:30 p.m., Hotel Jerome — The Aspen Business Luncheon: “What Creates a Leader? A Conversation with United States Air Force combat veteran Kari Granger”

Wednesday, 6 p.m., Molly Gibson Lodge — Potluck dinner

Thursday through Saturday, 9 a.m., Aspen Meadows Resort — Leading with Resilience and Grace: A Program for Women Who Serve

Saturday, 2 p.m., Booz Allen Hamilton Room at Aspen Meadows — Gratitude celebration