The memories from this remarkable Unconference weekend are still vivid, and we’re basking in the afterglow of all the incredible moments and connections we shared. At the heart of it all, we witnessed the incredible power of women supporting women, consciously creating spaces where we uplift and empower each other. When we stand together and set up situations that foster support, remarkable things become possible.
The Opening Session was a moving start to our event. It featured a parade of military branch flags by Sgt. Dixie, Army; Kimberly Henry and Daisy, Navy; Cathleen Gruetzner, Marine Corps; Virginia Wimmer, Air Force; Kathy Takayama, Coast Guard; and Adriana Griffin, Space Force, followed by the Lakota Women Warriors presentation of colors. The national anthem was performed by Nikkea Devida, and the Women Veterans Alliance Patriotic Supporter Award presented to William Franco. Devida and April Cofield received Uncon Enthusiast petals for attending all seven Unconferences. Kella With Horn, founder of the Lakota Women Warriors, closed the opening session. Attendees received a Thrive Causemetics bag full of goodies. Deloitte delivered its Core Leadership Program, and Off Base Transition Training (OBTT) offered enlightening workshops. We were thrilled to welcome 12 new Lifetime Members who joined during the event, thanks to the generosity of fellow attendees.
Our Lifetime Members enjoyed an exclusive evening sponsored by Tropicana Resort, complete with a perfume bar experience. Saturday began with Phylis Wilson from Military Women’s Memorial sharing insights and reminding us of the importance of registration and updating member profiles. We continued the tradition of our cake cutting ceremony, celebrating Patricia Jackson Kelly (80 years young) and Brianna Saravia (28, active duty). Morning session attendees received bags from Military OneSource. The exhibitor marketplace featured over 30 companies offering valuable resources to our attendees.
All-day services included a clothing boutique with generous donations from 15 Cabi stylists, and Lila Asnani, owner of Styling Insider, provided styling tips in the boutique and during her afternoon session. Attendees were able to take home several outfits, including jewelry. Hair and makeup were provided by 18 students from Paul Mitchell and Euphoria Institute of Beauty Arts and Sciences in Las Vegas. LV VHA was on hand to administer flu shots. New this year, Dripbar Las Vegas owner Nathan Adkins, an Army veteran, brought Dripbar’s IV therapy to us. Eric Stegall with Portraits for Patriots captured headshots.
Attendees were inspired by the engaging breakout sessions led by Sam Shuman, Barbara Ortiz and TJ McGrath, Tropicana, Peggy Turner, Lester Lumbad, Erin Dunn, Rocky Auletto and Shannon Hough, Kathy Takayama, Laurie Sayles, Monica Fullerton and Laura Renner. Lunch brought all of the attendees and exhibitors together to celebrate the three Women Veterans Giving MWSBA finalists: Ashley Gorbulja, GuideOn Education Consulting LLC; Tanisha Medina, SpeakLifeHealUp Counseling; and Kimberly Henry, The Gold Beacon LLC. Everyone was treated to the “Melissa” Lip Tint from Thrive Causemetics. Our afternoon presenter, Lauren Smith, shared about Overcoming Imposter Syndrome.
Everyone enjoyed a magical evening at our Night in Havana Mix & Mingle. The Mission Continues Women Veteran Leadership Program and Veterans Social Club joined us. Thank you to Veterans Social Club for providing door prizes, cigars and dominoes. The best part of the night was meeting and hearing from the incredible 96-year-old Dr. Doris “Lucki” Allen. A Vietnam veteran in the Army from 1950-1980, Dr. Allen graduated from Tuskegee University in Alabama, Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California, where she obtained her doctorate in psychology.
On Sunday, Tamia Dow closed the Unconference with her inspiring talk, “Life Under Construction.” Lisa Kalkes from Veterans Benefits Guide and her daughter, Quinn, led us in a heartwarming community giveback event, creating cards for the Ronald McDonald House. We extend our heartfelt thanks to our sponsors, USC Marshall and Veterans Benefits Guide, and everyone who made this Unconference a memorable experience.
A special shoutout to the incredible individuals and teams who helped to make this event possible: Lisa Montes, Terri Randall, Bobi Oates, Nikkea Devida, Bev Sabedra, Sgt. Dixie, Martha McPhee, TJ, Marlene Merck, who brought a trailer full of clothing, shoes and products and Cathleen for driving bottles of wine from Texas Hill Country. Stay tuned for more inspiring moments and future events from Women Veterans Alliance. Together, we continue to empower and uplift our community.
Photo Credit: Eric Stegall/Portraits for Patriots