It was time for female veterans to truly be “united in uniform.”
Women attending the annual Women Veterans Commemoration event March 24 at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia found out about veteran civic organizations, benefits and assistance, listened to a courageous Vietnam female veteran and, most importantly, shared their own stories with each other and the community.
HER talked with a few of these amazing female soldiers and veterans from mid-Missouri at the event. Learn about their dedicated military service to our country and how they continue to help fellow soldiers and veterans in the community.
Length of service: Almost 15 years
Branch: Missouri National Guard (currently active)
Current rank/job: Captain/homeland response force medical operations officer
Tabitha Osiier’s decision to join the armed forces was made in high school. While attending a Royals game in her hometown of Kansas City, a military appreciation night was held.
“I saw a woman there in her uniform, standing in front of a Humvee. I never thought this was something I could do,” she said. “I saw someone who looks like me, and I would be very regretful to not serve in the military, have that opportunity, have the education benefits and all these things. I felt really compelled that if I didn’t serve my country, I would regret it later on. It has been an amazing run.”
While in high school, she enlisted in the Army reserves and served as a combat medic in a field hospital for a few years. She then decided to join ROTC at then Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg.
She now is a captain and serves as a homeland response force medical operations officer in the Missouri National Guard.
Currently living in Columbia, Osiier decided to join the nonprofit organization, Combat Boots & High Heels (CBHH). Knowing its executive director Adrienne Spadaveccia for a long time, Osiier understood and agreed with her passion to start an organization comprised entirely of U.S. military veterans and servicemen that give directly back to their fellow veterans and soldiers locally, especially women.
“I told her, I want to be a part of this and be involved. The female population in the military doesn’t always get a voice,” Osiier said, now serving as the CBHH director of marketing and sharing the organization’s many services and programs with guests at the event in Columbia. “Our concerns and our issues aren’t always addressed in the same way. This can be a voice for female veterans and address the many roles we play — being mothers, being wives and still being military veterans and active in the military.”
Osiier is also involved in the American Legion Central Missouri Women Veterans Post 1111, which is one of less than a handful of all female veteran posts in the state. Even though she currently is active, she enjoys meeting the different generations of women veterans both at the post, through CBHH service and events, and at special activities like the Women Veterans Commemoration.
“A lot of the current service members don’t use the women veterans program services as much, but we still try to advocate and let them know of those services so people understand what is available,” she said.
Length of service: Approximately 22 years
Branch: U.S. Army
Retiring rank: Staff sergeant (E-6)
For Becky Price, her desire to join the U.S. Army in March 1988 was to pursue law enforcement.
“I thought by going into the military I would get the experience to become a police officer, but I never became a police officer,” she said. “I served approximately 22 years, retiring in November 2011 with 100 percent disability from the military.”
Even though community policing did come about, Price did serve the military police. She discovered some soldiers were “straight as arrows” and others landed themselves in trouble.
“You had soldiers that would always act out, go to the bars and get in fights or get in trouble, then they would have to report to the commander,” she said. “The military police are always the ones that had to deal with them because they were called out first.”
Price saw some similarities in work between military police and when she served as a drill sergeant. However, it was also her favorite occupation while enlisted in the U.S. Army.
“Being a drill sergeant was long hours. You wake up at 4 a.m. and do physical training at 5, then I’d be up until midnight. The soldiers would go to bed at 10 p.m., but I’d be up doing paperwork. Then, you are back up in just a few hours, doing it all over again,” she said. “My drill sergeant experience was probably my best in training and mentoring soldiers from civilian life to military life — teaching them the military way.”
Outside of serving mostly state side for the Army, Price served in Germany, Korea and is a Gulf War veteran, serving in Operation Desert Storm. She was also an Army recruiter, particularly during the time of Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“The parents didn’t want their kids leaving home because they knew as soon as they were leaving basic, they would be going to fight in the Middle East,” she said. “It was hard recruiting soldiers.”
Price was still an Army recruiter when she joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 280 in Columbia in 2000. After retirement, Price has remained active with that post, representing and discussing VFW programs, services and benefits to guests at the March 24 Women Veterans Celebration event. She is also a member of the American Legion St. Louis Service Women’s Post 404, another all female veterans chapter of the organization that boasts 300-plus members.
For a woman serving more than two decades in the U.S. military, Price believes the military is recognizing more females, particularly allowing more females to go into MOS (military occupational specialty).
“They are allowing more females to go into male-dominated jobs than what they used to. … I am very proud of the three to four females that went to ranger school, and the couple that graduated. That is a first step in the right direction for females,” she said.
However, Price feels that once females retire from the military, there needs to be more attention paid to them, particularly for homeless female veterans. She feels more shelters need to be developed, and even though strides are being made for additional medical services, benefits and attention paid to female veterans, she said there is still more to be done.
Price believes there is more encouragement for women to join the all-volunteer military now, especially with the Army allowing females to hold particular jobs that used to be male dominated.
“They are trying to treat females more equally than they used to. We are called soldiers and veterans, not male or female. It is a good discipline setting, it is structured, and it teaches you to be a team player,” she said. “It teaches camaraderie. It builds your mental strength and your physical strength. It develops you as a stronger woman. …. If it works out well, I recommend they make a career out of it.”
Length of service: Four 1/2 years
Branch: U.S. Army
Retiring rank: E-4 (corporal/specialist)
Her family’s past military service helped spur Melissa Mizio’s interest in joining the U.S. Army.
“My father was a Vietnam veteran, serving in the U.S. Army,” she said. “I did four years of Army ROTC in high school, going all the way through the ranks and achieving all you can achieve in Army ROTC. It is in my blood. I knew my freshman year what I wanted to do and pretty much lived my whole life being military driven.”
She served in the U.S. Army from 1992-1996, working as a tank/turret mechanic. Suffering back and brain injuries on a tank while stationed in Korea, Mizio was medically discharged. She also is a MST (military sexual trauma) survivor, an ailment that had taken her a long time to face.
“It is a big issue with female veterans. It took me a long time to deal with it, in fact it took 20 years,” she said. “I have done all my treatments (including treatment for MST), through the VA and the veterans center. VA is the best place to come, and I’m a huge advocate for the VA.”
Mizio retired as an E-4, or corporal/specialist. She wanted to make a career in the military, hoping one day to be a drill sergeant.
“I never wanted to be an officer, I wanted to be enlisted. So my joke is, since I couldn’t be a drill sergeant in the army, I am a drill sergeant to my kids,” she said with a laugh, noting she has three boys. “My middle son is interested in the military, and he does want to go into the army.”
Mizio has fueled her “military drive” through involvement in Disabled American Veterans (DAV), a national nonprofit organization that provides lifetime of support for veterans and their families, rides for more than 670,000 to medical appointments and assistance in gaining more than 292,000 benefit claims annually. After relocating from her native Colorado three years ago, she now serves the DAV Bolivar Memorial Chapter 66 and on the DAV’s Missouri Women Veterans Committee.
“As soon as I moved to Missouri, I got in touch with my local chapter and jumped right in. I am the adjutant for my chapter and legislative representative, too,” she said. “(With the Missouri Women Veterans Committee) I am assigned different tasks wherever the committee is needed for outreach for female veterans.”
For example, Mizio can answer questions on women’s services available for female veterans. If they are homeless, for example, she can share useful avenues of help through the VA.
“I am not a service officer, but I can provide that road map to get them where they need to go,” she said. “We have female service officers; two of them are on our committee.”
Mizio said those service officers can file claims for female veterans, knowing it is often more comfortable to speak with another woman in dealing with personal issues.
“In our organization, a lot of our male counterparts work with woman veterans and support our vision,” she said. “DAV has done a lot of research on what has happened to woman veterans. They are also supportive in outreach and just everything.”
Length of service: Seven 1/2 years active duty; three years inactive reserves
Branch: U.S. Army
Retiring rank: E-6 (staff sergeant)
Vicki Buss’ admiration and fascination with the U.S. military began with looking at play military uniforms in J.C. Penney and Montgomery Ward catalogs when she was a kid.
After graduating from high school, she attended Baker University in Kansas. In about three and a half years, she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology/sociology in 1973. She then went to Wichita, Kansas, where her fiancé was and managed trainees at a local restaurant. However, after she and her fiancé broke up, she thought about other future pursuits.
“My mom had me talk to a Navy officer recruiter. I took the test and they asked me so many questions. I had no idea about boats; my only idea of a boat was a speed boat or row boat,” she said. “Then, I talked to an Army recruiter, and that was in the very beginning of the all-volunteer Army. They said they would guarantee my station and my job for three years. I spent three and a half years. … My mom was a bit disappointed I didn’t go as an officer, but I wasn’t disappointed one iota.”
During her Army career from March 1974-September 1984, Buss earned the noncommissioned officer (NCO) of the quarter honor for the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, being the first woman to receive that honor. She was also stationed at the 5th General Hospital, an army hospital on base in Germany, served at Fort Hood in Texas, and was one of the last to serve in the Women’s Army Corps.
Due to Buss’ college education, she was able to enlist at an advanced rank, private first class, and after eight weeks was promoted to sergeant and then to staff sergeant in 1978.
“I thought about becoming a drill sergeant, but I decided to go to OCS (Officer Candidate School). I went down to Fort Gordon in Georgia,” she said. “We were running boots on pavement and it really messed up my knees. It caused a lot of pain. The TAC sergeants were not very good at allowing limitations that the medics put me on, so I dropped out and was very disappointed in myself. I figured I had screwed my Army career, spending my last year of service at Fort Hood.”
Buss then got her master’s degree in counseling psychology at Kansas State University and debated about going back into active duty or going back into the reserves. After meeting a woman and falling in love, she decided not to back in.
She had a rewarding career both in social work through the University of Missouri and with the State of Missouri before retiring. However, her dedication to the military did not dwindle. She has been involved with the Central Missouri Women Veterans (American Legion) Post 1111 since nearly its inception and serves as its current commander. The organization is involved in many community events, including the Artful Bra Contest supporting Ellis Fischel Cancer Center and often joins forces in events like Rifles and Ripcords with fellow female veteran support organization, Combat Boots and High Heels.
“I come from the generation with my dad and my brothers, you got in, you got out and that is what you did. It was the draft. The examples I had was that was just something you did. Being a part of the Legion helps me take honor in my service,” she said. “When I have my Legion stuff on, I tend to stand straighter. It is awesome, and I have met so many fantastic women in the military here in Columbia and throughout mid-Missouri.”
Story by Samantha Pogue/Photos by Emil Lippe