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Stats That Matter: Veterans And Athletes

By Kathryn Maloney

There are nearly two million living women veterans in the United States. A small handful of these women are athletes and they deserve to be celebrated.

Veterans make up 14% of the men in America, but among women in America, only 1.5% are veterans. Examples of female veterans who are athletes include Shawn Cheshire, Bernetta Williams, Tiffany Johnson-Pittman, Michele Gonzalez, and Lauren Montoya. 

Shawn Cheshire was a helicopter armament specialist in the U.S. Army and is now a para-athlete. At age 46, she has competed at the National and International levels in multiple para-sports, including adaptive rowing, adaptive biathlon, tandem road para-cycling, and tandem track para-cycling. Cheshire sustained multiple injuries while serving in the Army, but received stellar medical care that now allows her to compete at the highest level. 

“When I joined the military at 17, I was very much a kid,” Cheshire said. “There were moments when I didn’t think I was going to make it in basic training and I wanted to quit. But I didn’t. Now I understand the growth in that. If I made it through basic, I can do this, too.”

Michele Gonzalez was a military intelligence officer in the Army. Gonzalez always had a passion for running and turned to it as her release while serving in Iraq. Since returning home, Gonzalez has run countless miles, 13 marathons, and the 2013 Lake Placid Ironman triathlon. Gonzalez is now a coach to other runners and has grown a loyal following on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, NYCrunningmama.com

“[Running] went from something I had to do to something that I loved,” Gonzalez said. “If you let it, running can be an extremely meditative, therapeutic activity. I never just sit and allow myself to be alone with my thoughts — unless I’m running.”

Sources: 

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/vets/womenveterans/womenveterans-demographics

https://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/14092339/mothers-daughters-sisters-veterans

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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