Vet-A-Thon welcomes Friend of the VBC, Daria Sommers, to talk about her longstanding work to share the stories of our women veterans. Daria is a historian, writer, and filmmaker, who created the Lioness documentary.

Lioness, released in 2008, is the story of the first women who served in combat in Iraq in 2003-2004. The Lionesses were tasked with frisking women and children at checkpoints in Iraq, as cultural sensitivities prevented male soldiers from performing these duties. This role exposed them to combat situations, challenging traditional gender roles within the military.

The documentary explores the experiences of these women and sheds light on their contributions during a pivotal time in history. Daria Sommers explains that her interest in the Lionesses originated from her experiences during the 9/11 attacks in New York and her father’s background as a former serviceman.

She felt compelled to tell the stories of women in the military, especially those involved in the changing dynamics of combat roles.

Daria notes that the military was initially interested in showcasing the contributions of women, making it relatively easy for her team to gain access. They carefully approached the subject, emphasizing respect and focusing on the accomplishments and competency of the women involved.

The VBC collaborated with Daria and Lioness veteran Shannon Morgan to create a podcast history, which extends the narrative to include the Marine Lionesses, Female Engagement Teams, and Cultural Support Teams. The podcast traces the evolution of women’s roles in the military and the dismantling of the combat exclusion policy for women.

The Lioness documentary sheds light on the combat experiences of women like Lori Pesta and Jessica Lynch. Lori Pesta was the first Native American female to die in foreign combat during the Iraq War. The documentary extends beyond the initial Lionesses and covers the evolution of programs like Female Engagement Teams and Cultural Support Teams. These initiatives aimed to integrate women more officially into combat roles, challenging existing policies and demonstrating the necessity of female presence in certain military operations.

Daria discusses the challenges faced by these women, both in combat and upon their return home and the ongoing advocacy efforts to bring recognition, health care, and services to better support female veterans.

The Veterans Breakfast Club’s Veterans Day VET-A-THON is a 12-hour online program bringing veterans from around the nation together to share their stories of service with the public. You’ll hear from veterans from every walk of life and branch of service, from World War II to the present. Guest hosts from across the globe will help share Veterans’ stories, military history, GI humor, Armed Forces trivia, and information for veteran and military families.