Commemorating the 100-year anniversary of women in the military, John Jay applauds our women veteran students.
by Stephanie Jimenez
In 1917, a woman enlisted in the U.S. Navy for the very first time. Since then, millions of women have served in all branches of the military. As the country honors 100 years of women in service, John Jay is also taking part in the celebration by shining a spotlight on its exceptional women veteran students.
Finding a Community
Ekaterina Marynich, a senior at John Jay who formerly served in the U.S. Army, likes to spend her time in the Office
of Military and Veteran Affairs, where she is able to find a variety of programming and resources. This spring, she was thrilled when she found out that the College would be hosting an on-campus workshop with an organization called Operation Song, a non-profit dedicated to helping veterans tell their stories through music. As someone who once studied classical music, she jumped at the opportunity. “
They were able to grasp the meaning of my experience in one or two lines,” said Marynich. “It was amazing.”
Operation Song, which is based in Nashville, flew to New York specifically to work with John Jay veterans like Marynich. Working with a songwriter, Marynich described her experience coming from Russia to the United States 11 years ago, and how she soon realized that she wanted to make America her home. When she found out she could enlist in the military with a green card, she was ecstatic. “I signed up for the Army the same day I met with the recruiter,” she said.
Marynich brought a number of valuable skills to her position in the Army, including her background as a trained linguist and translator. After she returned from her deployment to Afghanistan, she was offered a position as a cryptologic linguist, a role that would include analyzing foreign communications. Despite her passion for the military, Marynich turned the offer down.
“Being in the military was an unforgettable experience,” she said. “But having a child while you’re deployed can be tough. I decided I wanted to have a family instead.”
Marynich now has a three-year-old daughter named Sophia, and is studying International Criminal Justice. With the support of the Veterans Association, Marynich has been able to balance her studies and her family life. When the Veterans Office organized a family trip to the Statue of Liberty last year, Marynich brought Sophia along. “The Veteran’s Office has been like a second family to me,” she said. “They put so much effort into revitalizing veterans. That effort has made me feel worthy again.”
Leading the Charge
Like Marynich, several other women veteran students have found a family in the Veterans Office, where they have been able to develop their leadership skills. In fact, 2018 marks the first year that the John Jay Veterans Association, a peer mentorship group for veteran students, is led entirely by women. Sade Thomas, a graduate student pursuing her master’s in Public Administration after graduating from John Jay with a bachelor’s degree, is proud to be the association’s first woman president. Thomas wants to ensure that veterans on campus have the academic resources they need and are able to transition to civilian life with as few barriers as possible.
“Veterans can have a lot of different needs,” she said. “I keep an open-door policy, so that if there’s anything people want to talk about, I’m there.” As a result of her involvement with the club, Thomas has made invaluable connections and was invited to sing at the New York City Mayor’s Breakfast on Veterans Day. For her, being the first woman president of the club is a responsibility that she takes very seriously, especially since women veteran students make up 25 percent of the over 500 veteran students at John Jay.
“This role has opened up my eyes to where I can go,” she said. “We need to see women in roles of leadership much more, so it can give other women the initiative and courage to be leaders too.” For Natalie Primus, Vice President of the Veterans Association, taking a position of leadership on campus came naturally to her given her experience supervising troops. Building a social support network for veteran students is now one of the most rewarding parts of her John Jay experience.
“When you transition out of the military, you’re looking for a community,” she said. “This is a community that veterans can feel familiar with.” The College hosted a luncheon in March as well as other events throughout the spring to celebrate 100 years of women in the military. But despite the incredible milestone, there’s still a long way to go. “As women, we always have to exceed expectations to be seen as equal to men,” Marynich said. “With time, the stigma against women will be reduced, but the reality is that it can be difficult.” Thomas agrees that reducing that stigma against women is important, not only in the military but in society at large. “It’s important that women feel welcome, whether they’re veterans or not,” she said. “We know that everyone has something to offer. Women always have something to bring to the table.” JM