For Veteran’s Day, we spoke with Captain Molly Mae Potter.
Capt. Potter, an Air Force veteran, was recently crowned Ms. Veteran America 2016 at the 5th Annual Ms. Veteran American competition in Washington, D.C.
She was first deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 with the U.S. Special Operations Command. During her deployment, she was injured but returned to normal flying duty without proper treatment. In the years that followed her deployment, she suffered from a multitude of health issues that stemmed from undiagnosed and untreated PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
After getting treatment at Nellis Air Force Base and receiving her registered service dog, Bella, Capt. Potter was able to start building a new life. She got a job an Operations Manager at Dell and began serving for different veteran associations. That was when a friend of hers told her she should be part of the Ms. Veteran American competition.
“I was like ‘No, no, I don’t do pageants, that’s not what I do,’” Potter says. “And she said, ‘No, Molly, it’s not a pageant by any means, it’s actually a competition and it works to raise awareness about the growing demographic of homeless female veterans in our country,’ and I thought, okay, maybe I can do this.”
During the yearlong competition, Capt. Potter was interviewed and tested on her current and historical military knowledge. She was also asked to share what it means to serve as a woman in the United States military. The competition is meant to highlight that strength and courage of the nation’s military women, while also assisting homeless women veterans and their children.
“No bikini competition! Not at all,” Potter says. “Not judged on how we look. It’s really all based on advocacy and being a voice for woman veterans.”
Since her win on October 19, 2016, Capt. Potter has advocated tirelessly for the homeless women veterans. She says that these women are resourceful and find a way to survive. But just because they are able to find a place to sleep at night, doesn’t mean they are not homeless. Many of these women have children and refuse to get support for fear of losing their children and for other reasons
“When you’re in the military, as a woman, you don’t ask for help. Because when you ask for help, that’s a sign of weakness” Potter says. “So, when you get out and you struggle, you just use your keen and your resourcefulness, and if it means sleeping in a parking lot for a few months, then that’s what you do.”
Capt. Potter continuously reiterates her support and dedication to the fight for women veterans. She also spotlights to the many volunteers who spend their lives in support of these homeless mothers, daughters, sisters and wives. And, to her surprise, this level of influence would not have been made possible without the Ms. Veteran American competition.
“So, there is a sash. There is a crown. I’m still getting used to that,” Potter says. “But really it’s all about when you open your mouth, what’s the message that comes out.”