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Valuing Our Veterans

by 3 Generations
Valuing Our Veterans
Valuing Our Veterans
Valuing Our Veterans
Valuing Our Veterans
Valuing Our Veterans
Valuing Our Veterans
Valuing Our Veterans
Sgt. Major James Sartor
Sgt. Major James Sartor

A few days ago, Sgt. Maj. James G. “Ryan” Sartor was killed in Afghanistan. It was his 7th deployment overseas since he enlisted in 2001. His service will be recognized with the posthumous award of a Purple Heart.

Never has the civilian/military divide felt greater than today, as many of us have become accustomed to what is now an 18-year-old war. And still, veteran homelessness and veteran death by suicide remain massive problems.

At 3 Generations we are only a tiny part of the awareness-raising universe. For the last 2 years, we have focused on one of the most misunderstood areas of the military/civilian divide - the place of transgender veterans in our collective gratitude.

At our organization, we do not differentiate the value of a veteran’s service based on sexual or gender orientation. We are humbled by all who served our country. And yet, this work has proved extremely controversial, even by 3 Generations standards. We have received criticism and condemnation for valuing transgender veterans. Nonetheless, it is with determination and pride that we continue to share our award-winning film Go Debbie.

At a screening in Colorado last weekend, a full house audience expressed gratitude for our effort to raise awareness about homelessness among veterans and the particular challenges of transgender veterans.

The work continues.

Aspen Screening
Aspen Screening

When veterans return home, many do not fully leave behind the horrors they face in war. The NY Times reported that last week alone, three veterans killed themselves on Department of Veterans Affairs health care properties. The VA estimates as many as one in every five veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan currently suffers from PTSD. For Vietnam veterans, the number is nearly one in three in their lifetime. Approximately 20 veterans kill themselves every single day. Homelessness, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress and a military culture that tends to sweep things away are all aggravating factors for veterans.

Unfortunately, 70% of veterans do not regularly seeks care from the Veterans Administration. Although there are many reasons for this, the culture in the military, one of discipline, perseverance, and resilience, does not lend itself to seeking help. And in the civilian community, there remains both a stigma surrounding these problems for veterans and a general unawareness about how to help. Furthermore, the public face of the VA has all but disappeared; in 2017 only $57,000 of its $6.2 million media budget was used. Concurrently, funding for suicide research and prevention in the mental health community has been cut.

A first vital step in preventing more veteran death by suicide is reaching out to veterans and letting them know they are not alone. At 3 Generations, we aim to put faces and names to our silenced heroes. By telling their stories, we aim to bring these issues into the light and help raise awareness of the ways we in the civilian population can show gratitude to our veterans.

Representative Mikie Sherrill
Representative Mikie Sherrill

We are delighted to salute the 93 veterans serving in the new Congress.  Of the 16 freshmen arriving on Captiol Hill this month, three are female House members: former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), former Air Force Capt. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Navy veteran Elaine Luria (D-Va.). Our mantra has always been to value all our veterans no matter their race, gender, religious beliefs or political affiliation. Those who chose to serve in Congress deserve  special respect as they continue a career of public service.

At 3 Generations we still see the need to raise awareness around issues that are of concern to many veterans: PTSD, homelessness, sexual assault, drug-dependency and LGBTQ rights. Presently two-thirds of current and former female military report they have experienced sexual harassment or assault. The same number report sexual discrimination.  11% of veterans are homeless. 17% experience some degree of PTSD. Meanwhile less than 40% of current military believe the transgender community should serve in the military, creating vulnerability for transgender recruits and veterans.

Throughout 2019 3 Generations will continue to tell the stories of veterans through our project Valuing our Veterans. It will be our special pleasure to watch the work of the 16 freshmen veterans in the 116th Congress.  We thank them for their work and you for your support.

We are delighted that last weekend our short documentary film, Go Debbie, premiered on both coasts: in Los Angeles at the New Filmmakers LA Film Festival and New York City at the NYC Shorts Film Festival where it won the Award for Best LGBT documentary. We are proud of this work and honored that we have been able to share the special story of one transgender Vietnam veteran. Our project ‘Valuing Our Veterans’ is so-titled becuase it valuies all veterans - no matter their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or country of origin.

We recognize that the subject is controversial for some people. However, we also know that there are 15,000 transgender men and women serving in the military, as well as 134,000 transgender veterans, all of whom have and do serve this country. We thus stand by this issue and we feel that all veterans, no matter their gender, should be valued, recognized and honored. And, thankfully, it seems the larger world agrees, as Go Debbie becomes the most successful short in 3G history. We have been accepted into 6 film festivals and counting, with three of the screenings this month alone.

Now more than ever, transgender men and women, especially those who serve our country, deserve our care and attention. During the coming months we will continue to fight for the rights of transgender veterans as we share Debbie’s story wherever we can. Please take a look at our website to find out more details.

Over 1% of the population, or more than 2 million American men and women, have served in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting the global war on terror. As they return home, many face tremendous challenges. At 3 Generations we have made it part of our mission to tell the stories of our returning heroes and help raise awareness of the crises they face.

One of the shorts we filmed this year was Go Debbie, relating the experiences of a transgender Vietnam Navy veteran named Debbie. It’s estimated that over 134,000 American veterans are transgender and over 15,000 trans people are serving in the military today. Trans men and women have additional challenges compared to their fellow cisgender veterans, many of which remain largely unknown to the general public. Though support for transgender veterans has improved since the Vietnam era, transgender men and women still face barriers ranging from obtaining updated service records that do not out them as transgender, to receiving VA coverage of necessary medical procedures.

As soon as we met Debbie, we knew how vital it was from an educational perspective to tell her story. Debbie’s experiences are emblematic of the challenges faced by trans veterans. She suffered through homelessness and poverty after her service, all the while navigating through the process of accepting herself as the woman she is and beginning her transition. That is why this past month it was so incredibly exciting for us to accompany Debbie to the screening of Go Debbie at the Colorado International Activism Film Festival. The film festival showcased films that documented all types of human rights abuses from sex trafficking to the immigrant crisis. It was an honor for our film to be a part of this important showcase.

It is our mission at 3 Generations to enable survivors to record their experiences as an act of healing, a call to action and to create historical evidence. Debbie’s story was significant not only to our organization, but in order to educate and call attention to the specific issues that veteran trans men and women face in their daily lives.


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Organization Information

3 Generations

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @3Generations
Project Leader:
Jane Wells
New York, NY United States

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