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New Program Connects Women Veterans

Rasmuson Foundation

Alaska has more than 10,000 women veterans, but fewer than one-third are signed up for VA health services. Getting them connected to services, as well as to each other, is the object of a new program launched Monday on Alaska Women Veterans Day.

The project is named after a WAC who made a huge difference for women in the military before she became an Alaskan for life. Colonel Mary Louise Milligan, who became Mary Louise Rasmuson, served from 1942-1962 and became director of the Women’s Army Corps.

“She was key in integrating the military, and one of her awards was for that.”

That’s Vanessa Meade, a U.S. Army Gulf War veteran who, with Marine veteran Penney Champney, co-leads the project. She says Mary Louise Milligan created new opportunities for women in the military, particularly Women of Color.

Now women veterans, as any as 10,000 in Alaska, need to be connected to services they are owed.

“A lot of times, Women Vets don’t know that they are qualified for services.”

Monday, the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska Community Foundation and the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Social Work launched Operation May Louise. A new website,, will share resources and raise visibility for Alaska women veterans.

Ann Bullerdick, the VA Women Veterans Program Manager says she knows women veterans are underserved.

“We have about 10,240 women veterans in Alaska, and the VA system in Alaska only serves about 2,500-2,600 of those veterans.”

She says a lot of women encounter barriers in trying to get services, especially from the large, bureaucratic Veterans Administration.

“You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Meade is an assistant professor in social work who earlier founded Alaska Veterans Organization for Women (AVOW), an organization to connect women veterans to their community.

She is asking women to sign up on the Operation Mary Louise website to get regular updates about health and benefit issues specific to women veterans in Alaska.

She also wants the project to increase the visibility and understanding of women as veterans.

“We see you and acknowledge you.”

Mary Louise Rasmuon was inducted into the Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame posthumously in March of 2020 for all of her work in integrating the Women’s Army Corps. She served on the Rasmuson Foundation board for 45 years. She died in 2012 at the age of 101.

Also on Facebook as Operation Mary Louise:

(907) 306-2367