A former Tucson lawmaker just hired to coordinate a female veterans' conference isn't sure women belong on the front lines, at least partly because combat is no place to be dealing with menstrual cycle issues.
Terri Proud, a one-term state representative, was recently hired as an administrative assistant with the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services at a salary of roughly $40,000, said Arizona Department of Veterans' Services spokesman Dave Hampton. The conference is one of several responsibilities she'll be undertaking, he said.
When asked about women on the front lines, Proud said that is a tough issue she didn't want to talk about.
She said her position is drawn partly from her family's military background and partly from biology.
"It would have been hard for me if my mother had been in that position," Proud said. Her mother was an emergency-room nurse in the Army. "I understand that women want to be on the front lines, and they want to do their service and women are very strong. We've really come far through the years. We're extremely strong."
Beyond that, she said, "women have certain things during the month I'm not sure they should be out there dealing with. I don't know how to address that topic in a very diplomatic manner."
Hampton declined to comment on Proud's women-in-combat position.
But the remarks drew a strong reaction from Tara Jones, founder and president of the National Women Veterans Association of America.
"It's amazing that a woman would make that type of a statement. She's a woman," Jones said. "Does she not have one? Does that prevent her from being able to do her job?"
Jones said hearing such a remark is disheartening and can delay changes female veterans need to see happen, such as the expansion of gynecological care.
Not all VA centers offer health care for women, meaning that someone could wait several months before getting lifesaving care for diseases such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer, she said. Veterans' Services needs people who are savvy about those kinds of issues and the conversations that can hinder them, she said.
Veterans' Services needs to catch up to the women it's serving, Jones said, noting women who serve must contend with challenges that are much more complex and physically demanding than a monthly cycle, and they've been doing that for hundreds of years.
Proud said one of the topics she hopes to address at this spring's fifth annual women veterans conference is the challenges female veterans face with homelessness.
As a member of the Legislature, Proud garnered national attention for her controversial takes on issues, such as an email exchange where she wrote women who want abortions should have to watch one first, and was in the public eye for sponsoring a bill putting a high school elective course about the Bible on the books.
Proud noted she knows the military environment well because she comes from a military family. She said she has a history of raising awareness about women in the military. During her time in the Legislature, she passed a bill creating a specialty license plate honoring female veterans.
Awareness is her big goal with the conference, Proud said.
"I think (the conference) is going to create a lot more awareness in the state about the women and their role," Proud said. "It is definitely going to give a lot of exposure and support to the women vets in Arizona."
Jones said she hopes Proud will help the conference start a dialogue with female veterans about the combat issue and other issues facing women veterans.
"It is definitely going to give a lot of exposure and support to the women vets in Arizona."
Arizona Department of Veterans' Services, speaking of the female veterans conference