Kentucky Women Veterans Unite! 2016

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Kentucky Women Veterans Unite! continues in 2106.  We will continue to hold events for and outreach to Kentucky's 24,000 women veterans, including regional conferences in Eastern and Western Kentucky.

Recent Women Veterans Events 

Meet and Greet with Congressman Yarmuth

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Women Veterans in Louisville met with U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth on June 25. Meet and Greets provide an opportunity for Women Veterans to meet others in their community. This Meet and Greet was sponsored by Lady Vets Connect and attended by KY Women Veterans Coordinator LuWanda Knuckles.

Signing Bill for Women Veterans Program

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Governor Matt Bevin signs SB 128 authorizing the Kentucky Women Veterans Program June 22, 2016 while Senator Albert Robinson and Women Veterans Coordinator LuWanda Knuckles shake hands behind him.  From left, Phyllis Abbott of Shepherd's Hands, KDVA Deputy Commissioner Heather French Henry, Navy Veteran Dee Robinson, Governor Bevin, Senator C.B. Embry and Sherry Whitehouse of Lady Vets Connect.

Bridge Dedicated to WACs

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On Memorial Day, The American Legion dedicated a bridge on Highway 61 over the Salt River in honor of the Women's Army Corps.  

More pictures here.

WACs and other women veterans, along with Rep. Linda Belcher, WAC LTC Preston, Veterans Service Organizations and KDVA Women Veterans Coordinator LuWanda Knuckles cut the ribbon to dedicate the bridge.​

Women Veterans House Nears Completion

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Lady Vets Connect and Shephard's Hands joined forces in Lexington to restore a three-bedroom house in Lexington for homeless women veterans.  When it opens in June, it will be the first house in Kentucky dedicated specifically for homeless women veterans. More pictures here.

State Senator Albert Robinson with fellow Women Veterans Advisory Committee members Brenda Moore, Mary Broussard and Lady Vets Founder Sherry Whitehouse, with Phyllis Abott of Shephard's Hands and KY Women Veterans Coordinator LuWanda Knuckles.

Honoring and Illuminating Women Veterans

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Athena’s Sisters celebrates their 2nd Anniversary in Louisville  by unveiling portraits of 16 military women from the community. Faces of Athena was created to honor and illuminate all military women.

KDVA Women Veterans Coordinator LuWanda Knuckles, first row on right, with Athena's Sisters members and guests.

VA Goes Red for Women Veterans

HFH at VA Goes Red event Feb. 7.jpgOn Feb. 3, the Lexington VAMC held its annual Go Red for Women day to publicize heart health for women veterans.  KDVA Commissioner Heather French Henry and KDVA Women Veterans Coordinator LuWanda Knuckles both participated.

Read blog post here.
More pictures here.

LuWanda Knuckles, third from left, helps volunteers set up for the event.

Lexington Women Veterans Meet and Greet 

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About 40 people attended the Women Veterans Meet and Greet in Lexington January 30.

The event was sponsored by LadyVetsConnect and featured KDVA Women Veterans Coordinator LuWanda Knuckles.

Front Row: Mary Jennings, LadyVetsConnect member, David McFadden, supporter
Second Row: Phyllis Abbott, LadyVetsConnect member
Third Row: Justin Hollon, Supporter, LuWanda Knuckles and Leroy O'Brien, LadyVetsConnect member

Photo by Paul Atkinson of Tops in Lexington.  Full photo album here.

New Home for Women Veterans

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Members of LadyVetsConnect in front of the Lexington house they are helping Shephard's Hands to renovate for homeless women veterans.

Outreach to Women Veterans in Northern Kentucky

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KDVA Women Veterans Coordinator LuWanda Knuckles brought her outreach to Elsmere on Jan. 17 when she addressed the VFW Post 6423 9th District Ladies Auxiliary Meeting.
Luwanda takes her presentation about women veterans and benefits and services to events around the state. If you are interested, email her at

Women Veterans at Inaugural Parade

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KDVA Women Veterans Coordinator LuWanda Knuckles, left, with Vietnam Veteran Mary Rhodes at the Inaugural Parade in Frankfort December 8.
Governor Bevin and Lt. Gov. Hampton, both of whom are veterans, invited women veterans and veterans groups to join the Inaugural Parade.

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The National Association of Black Veterans marched in the Inaugural Parade, including women veteran members. From left, Rev.Dr. James H. Thurman, KY State Commander; Denise Henderson, KY State Auxiliary First Vice President; Dr Jones M. Pedesdeaux, member.

NABVETS' 4th Annual "Shining the Light on Military Women" event will be held on Saturday, March 5 in Radcliff. PDF Flyer

Honor a Woman Veteran with a Commemorative Brick 

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A Healthy Year of the Woman Veteran

Throughout 2016, KDVA will feature monthly messages from Kathleen Robbins, a women’s health nurse practitioner with the Women’s Veterans Program at the Robley Rex VA Medical Center in Louisville.

February:  Healthy Hearts Month
Every February the American Heart Association designates a day entitled, GO RED FOR WOMEN.  This year that day is Friday February 5th  when everyone is encouraged to wear red to raise awareness of heart disease in women. This month’s health topic is heart disease in women.  Currently heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.  It accounts for  1 of every  4 female deaths.  Despite  educational efforts in past few years,  only 54 % of women verbalize  heart disease as the number one  cause of female deaths, which it is for  African American  and Caucasian women.   Heart disease and cancer are equally responsible for deaths of Hispanic women and it is second only to cancer for American Indian, Alaska Natives or Pacific Island women. 
Two-thirds (64%) of women who die suddenly have no prior symptoms of heart disease.  Even with no symptoms, a woman can be at risk heart disease.    A woman may be asymptomatic or experience angina (dull to sharp chest pain).   Forty per cent of women experience  non chest pain symptoms such as, pain in the jaw, throat, abdomen or back, feeling short of breath, sweating,  a racing heart rate (palpitations),  light headedness or nausea and vomiting.   Symptoms may occur at rest, begin with physical activity or even  occur with stress.   Many women ignore these symptoms  due to being  the main caretaker for their family, but they shouldn’t.
The top three risk factors for heart disease are increased blood pressure, increased LDL cholesterol and smoking.  Forty-nine per cent of women have at least one of these risk factors.   Other significant risk factors include:  diabetes, overweight or obesity, poor diet, physical activity and excessive alcohol intake.   Most of these risk factors can be modified  by a woman to decrease some of the risk.  
So what can you do to decrease stress factors:
1.     Eat a healthy well balanced diet:  Try to eat 5 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily and whole grains.  Reduce salt intake.   Read food labels and compare the sugar, fat, and sodium of different brans to choose products with lower amounts of these.  Drink 6-8 glasses of water daily.  Limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks/day.
2.    Quit smoking:   As soon as one quits smoking the body starts to repair itself.  Circulation improves by reducing the heart rate and blood pressure almost immediately.   Food tastes better.  A year after quitting the risk for  a heart attack is reduced by 50 per cent.   Every woman should know what her blood pressure is and monitor it. 
3.    Be Active:    Engage in  moderate activity that makes you sweat or exercise at least 20-30 minutes every day to cut your heart disease risk in half.  Exercise also lowers your blood pressure and blood sugar, burns calories which helps lose weight,  lowers  blood cholesterol and reduces stress levels by lowering cortisol.  Exercise can also have antidepressant effects and it can strengthen bones decreasing the risk for osteoporosis.     Activity can be as simple as walking in the neighborhood.  Try one of the activity applications available for most smart phones or buy a pedometer to track your steps.
4.    Followup with you health care provider several times per year:    Keep up with your numbers – blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides and glucose and of course weight.  

The following resources are available if you wish more information heart disease.
American Heart Assoc iation:   Go Red for Women
Women Heart:  the National Coalition of Women and Heart Disease.


January: Cervical Cancer Awareness

 This month’s health topic is cervical cancer.  Cervical cancer, like all cancers develops due to out of control growth of abnormal cells leading to invasion of other tissues.    Cells become cancer cells due to damage to  DNA in the cells caused by mistakes that happen when a cell is reproducing or by something in the environment.   People can also inherit damaged DNA,  such as BRACA gene in breast and ovarian cancer.  Cervical cancer was once the most common cause of cancer death for American women.  In 2015,   newly diagnosed cases of cervical cancer totaled 12,900 and  about 4100 women  died.   The rate of cervical cancer deaths has  declined  by more that 50 per cent  in past 30 years due to pap smear screening.   Now more precancers  than cancers are diagnosed.   Cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife.  It is rare younger than age twenty or in older women that have had routine screening.  By ethnicity, cervical cancer in the US is most common in Hispanic women, followed by African Americans, Asians,  Pacific Islanders and whites.    American Indians and Alaskan natives have the lowest risk of cervical cancer.  
Factors  that increase a woman’s risk  for developing cervical cancer include the following:
1.    Exposure to the  Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most important factor.   The virus can infect cells on  the surface of the skin and cells lining the genitals, anus,mouth and throat. It is spread by skin to skin contact and through sex, including vaginal,anal, and oral sex.    Low risk strains of the virus are responsible for the so called venereal warts on genitals of both men and women  (strains 6 and 11 are most common).    High risk strains of the virus which are most often not visible,  are responsible for  changes that lead to abnormal pap smears and development of cervical cancer.   Gardisil is an HPV vaccine that helps protect  against the 2 types of HPV responsible for 90% of genital warts and  the 2 types  (strains 16 and 18) responsible for 70% of cervical cancers.    Gardisil is recommended for young girls and boys ages 9 to 26.   Like other vaccines it is most effective if given before exposure to the virus.
2.     Women who smoke are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer as nonsmokers.
3.    Anything that decreases a person’s immune response  such as HIV or medications used to treat autoimmune disorders  or  for immune suppression in organ transplantation, can increase  risk of cancer including cervical cancer.
4.    Some studies say that exposure to chlamydia infection can increase risk for cervical cancer since often chlamydia infections may be asymptomatic.
5.    Overweight women are more likely to develop adenocarcinoma of the cervix.
6.    Taking oral contraceptives for a long period has been shown to increase risk.   In one study the risk of cervical cancer doubled in women who took OCPS longer than 5 years but returned to normal 10 years after they stopped.  As with any medication a discussion of risk versus benefit with a woman’s health care provider is always needed.
7.    Diethylstilbesteral  (DES) was a medication given  to prevent miscarriage from 1940-1971.   Women  whose mothers took DES while carrying them in  utero developed cervical cancer at a higher rate.     Even though the daughters of women who took DES are now past age of highest risk, the risk is  still present as there is no age cutoff .
8.    Other  factors that increase risk for cervical cancer include;  greater than 3 term pregnancies, term pregnancy under the age of 17, poverty , and family history of cervical cancer.
9.    A recent study found that women who had ever used an IUD for birth control actually had a lower risk of cervical cancer.    Use of an IUD might also lower risk of endometrial cancer.
New ways to prevent and treat cervical cancer are being studied.  These  include  sentinel  lymph node biopsy at the time of surgery for cervical cancer, HPV vaccines such as gardisil discussed above.  In addition experimental vaccines are being studied for women with  a history of HPV infections, to help their immune system destroy the virus.   Other vaccines are being studied to help women with cervical cancer  that has recurred or metastasized.   The vaccines attempt to help produce an immune reaction that will help cancer cells  slow their growth or stop them from growing.   Drug therapy targeted at abnormal genes is being researched as well. Drug treatment of precancers  has shown  promise.  A commonly used one is a cream named  aldara that is used to treat  genital warts. 

To learn more about cervical cancer and other cancers go to



VA Hotline for Women Veterans

1-855-VA WOMEN or 1-855-829-6636

A Healthy Year of the Woman Veteran


July: Learn About Hepatitis

April:MIlitary Sexual Assault Month

Women Veterans Links

Women Veterans in Kentucky

Federal Job Initiative for Women Veterans

Military Woman Homepage

National Organizations for Women Veterans

VA Center for Women Veterans

Federal Homeless Veterans Program

National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators Website

Sexual Assault Programs in Kentucky

Kentucky Commission on Women

Kentucky Organizations for Women

Woman Veterans Videos

Military Consumer Resources from the Better Business Bureau

Healthy Hearts for Women Veterans

Heart-Healthy Weight Loss

We're not going to lie to you: losing weight and keeping it off is hard. But it can be done.  And every pound you lose improves your heart health.

Eating Heart Healthy at Work:

The American Heart Association’s Healthy Workplace Food and Beverage Toolkit was created to help organizations improve their food environment and promote a culture of health. It provides practical action steps and suggestions that are easy to understand and apply.

Three Sisters Soup:

Simple Cooking with Heart brings you this interesting vegetable and bean soup called Three Sisters Soup​.

Just Get Moving!:

The American Heart Association is working to help kids, families and communities live heart-healthy lives. Use this physical activity information to help you get active and stay active, for life.