By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new awareness campaign designed to honor women veterans is underway.

It begins with an exhibit called “I Am Not Invisible.”

More than 29,000 women veterans call Minnesota home. And many of them feel unnoticed, unappreciated and invisible.

“I was an Army mechanic on helicopters, so basically I fixed all the guns and rockets,” said Veteran Angi Batica.

She served her country proudly for more than six years, but that changed when she returned to civilian life.

“For the first 10 years, I didn’t feel visible. I didn’t even label myself as a veteran.” Batica said.

She said many women veterans feel their service to country was minimized.

“Even when it comes down to the VA model, you know, it’s ‘he,’ ‘he was born in battle,’ not ‘she.’ And they won’t change it,” Batica said. “Everything appears geared towards men.”

(credit: I Am Not Invisible Project)

Bridget Cronin is executive director of Ars Bellum, or Art of War. It is a nonprofit which provides art therapy for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. She learned about “I Am Not Invisible” from Oregon State’s exhibit.

“I am incredibly humbled at all the things that they have accomplished and endured and survived,” Cronin said.

She partnered with other groups, like Minnesota VFW Charitable Association, the Department of Veteran Affairs and Minnesota Humanities Center to honor Minnesota’s 29,000 female veterans.

“This is not a government program, this is not a university program. This is grass roots in the community,” Croinin said. “We’re your neighbors, we’re your fellow church goers.”

The exhibit will feature portraits of 33 Minnesota women veterans and their stories. They are stories that Batica, who is one of the honorees, said needs to be heard.

“She was a pilot flight instructor trainer, and she had to teach the men, but she couldn’t actually fly herself,” Batica said. “That’s pretty disheartening, you know, because that’s how things were back then.”

Through the exhibit, Ars Bellum hopes to connect women veterans to community resources and a network of women who have similar experiences.

The “I Am Not Invisible” exhibit begins its six-month run in Minnesota at the State Capitol’s rotunda on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Click here for other times, dates and locations to view the exhibit.

Reg Chapman