Grateful for Finding the Right Path

Makissa Lewis is a female U.S. Army veteran committed to supporting other females leaving military service and settling in Florida, which has the nation’s second-largest population of female veterans.

“I don’t want any other female to feel how I felt,” she said. “Lost.”

In 2004, when Lewis was returning home from Iraq, “They just sent us home. It was worse for the women; they didn’t even check us to see if we had any problems.” Neither did the military make sure our returning heroines had access to basic resources—or knew how to access them.

“I saw a need, and I asked, ‘how can I change it?’”

Her answer was to found My Seester, a grassroots resource center for returning female soldiers. The name is a reference to the bond they share as service members and also a reassurance that “I See You,” something Lewis said she didn’t feel when exiting the service.

Lewis initially focused her efforts on helping her fellow former service members access education, even pursuing a master’s degree in higher education administration to equip herself. “When I first came home, I thought getting an education would help them.” But she soon realized that had they more immediate needs: housing and mental health. “If your mind is not right, you’re not going to be thinking about your education.”

Lewis also sees too many female ex-service members entering relationships simply as a way to secure housing.

She’s intervening in every way she can: helping her sisters understand what resources are available and how to access them.

Lewis founded My Seester in 2018, but “this is becoming my lifelong mission,” she said. “I see the reports. I see how my sisters come home.” So many, she said, don’t have a sense of pride about having served; they have pain. “They’re dealing with a lot, and we tend to internalize as females anyway. There’s a reason the veteran’s suicide rate is 22 per day, and female veterans are twice as likely to die by suicide.”

“All of this makes me want to do more, probe more.” Lewis has a bachelor’s degree in psychology in addition to that master’s degree, and now she’s headed back to school again, this time to become a mental health clinician. She’s very interested in understanding, as she puts it, “why one person goes left, and one goes right.”

“If I know more, I can help. I’m grateful I went right and am in a position to help,” she said.  

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