Stefanik ’11 Hosts Panel About Women Veterans Returning Home

April 28, 2021 Caitlin Burns

Four women in military outfits with a navy ship behind them

Image provided by the Independence Seaport Museum

By Nikolai Kachuyevski '21

Spanish Language and Literature and Sociology alumna Ali Stefanik ’11, along with co-host Alexis Furlong, hosted a panel discussion, “When the Women Returned: The Difficult Journey Home for Women in the Military,” to provide an opportunity for women veterans to share their stories about their journey home. 

“We had women who were serving currently and women who served as long ago as World War II talk about how, thematically, their transition to civilian life looked similar, even though their service was separated by decades,” said Stefanik.  

Stefanik wanted this panel to bring the community together while also combining her work at the Independence Seaport Museum (ISM), which has strong ties to the military. One story in particular that inspired the panel was that of the USS Olympia, the oldest steel warship still afloat in the world and moored at ISM in Philadelphia.
 
“The remains of one man, The Unknown Soldier, were selected to memorialize all the lives lost during [World War I],” said Stefanik. “The USS Olympia played a critical role: transporting the remains of the Unknown Soldier from Le Havre, France to the United States. Her difficult journey home was almost forgotten entirely. During her journey, Olympia sailed through violently stormy seas, and during the worst she rolled 39 degrees—only 10 degrees away from being lost entirely. In honor of the centennial of Olympia’s difficult journey home with The Unknown Soldier, ISM is spending the year exploring a wide range of Difficult Journeys Home. The panel was an opportunity to explore the unique challenges facing women who are veterans as they return to civilian life.”

Stefanik’s time at Arcadia aided her with her work now, including when putting this panel together. 
 
“My time at Arcadia taught me to think critically about access, inclusion, and storytelling: What stories do I have the agency to tell? What is the impact of me telling a story?” said Stefanik. “As Olympia’s stewards, we feel confident about our ability to tell Olympia’s story. We also feel committed to using our platform to amplify the voices of folks who have been marginalized throughout history.”
 
A recording of the panel is available on ISM’s website and social media platforms. Over the next few months, ISM will be exploring PTSD, immigration, the impact of colonization on the Philippines, homelessness, and other difficult journeys home. 

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