INDIANAPOLIS — More than 30 thousand women have served in the military in Indiana.
Although their service has been highlighted at exhibits in the war memorial museum, Air Force Veteran Lisa Wilken says much of their time in the service is invisible.
"Unfortunately all too often when you see a woman at the grocery store with an Army or Air Force sweatshirt on, the general public assumes that they are wearing their spouse's shirt,” said Wilken.
Wilken, who also serves on the board of the Veterans Support Counsel, is working with legislators to draft a bill to create a "woman veteran" license plate. There are 18 other states that have similar plates.
"I want them to have something that says, I am a proud woman veteran, I want to see that on a license plate,” said Dr. Doty Simpson-Taylor, who is an Air Force Veteran.
"We shouldn't be afterthoughts, we should be front and center also. I just think that a women's veterans license plate would bring that forward,” said Fay Eichelberger who is also an Air Force Veteran.
Right now Indiana does offer veteran plates, but Wilken says the distinction of having "woman veteran" would make a huge difference.
"I have an air force plate on my vehicle and when I park at Lowes in that specialty spot a lot of times when I get out, I'll get a comment made to me about 'that's for when you're husband is driving the truck' and then I have to explain 'that's my truck, I served, my husband never served,” said Wilken.
"I think that much of the time, people conceptualize veterans as men and women veterans feel that profoundly in many of the conversations that are had and many of the activities that are prepared,” said Simpson-Taylor.
The hope is that passing this legislation and highlighting that women are serving in the military, will help bring more visibility to a group that is often overlooked.
"And what this plate does, is it gives women veterans the opportunity to celebrate our service and designate ourselves as a veteran and it also gives us the opportunity to educate the public. When people sit at the stoplights and they travel they pay attention to those license plates and when they see woman veterans it just reinforces to them the idea that women proudly serve."
Revenue from the plate would go into the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs budget, specifically for the Women Veteran Program. The program helps educate people about female service and provides services to women veterans in the state.
Wilken says the hope is that the bill will be introduced in the 2022 session.
“What this does is it helps those women who are currently serving and the ones coming behind them to know that we appreciate their service, we honor their service, and most importantly that we recognize their service,” said Wilken.