By Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–Inside the Veterans Multi-Service Center on North Fourth Street, in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge, a room has been set aside specifically for women, for the first time.
In many ways, female experiences are like their male counter-parts when they return home from duty.
Women’s center coordinator Aronda Smith, an Army vet who served in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, recalls her first visit to her old neighborhood. As she was driving – her vehicle went over a strip across the road that measures traffic flow – and she panicked, thinking it was an Improvised Explosive Device.
“I immediately slammed on my brakes, and got rear-ended.”
The larger reason to have a women’s section in the vet center includes counseling on gender-specific issues, like ‘military sexual trauma,’ or MST.
“So it’s difficult for them to be around males, especially men in uniforms or males that they may identify with some of the past experiences that they’ve had.’
Officials say MST symptoms – including anxiety and flashbacks – are similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and can range from minor to severe.