About Operation Mary Louise

Operation Mary Louise is a statewide community-based women veterans project that provides Alaska women veterans a way to share resources and build connections with one another.

Mary Louise Rasmuson First Term Swearing In

Connections and Resources for Alaska Women Veterans

Women veterans in Alaska now have a new way to connect to services, improve their visibility and connect to a growing women veteran’s community.

Operation Mary Louise is a statewide community-based women veterans project that launched on Monday, November 9th, 2020, Alaska Women Veterans Day. The project is named after veteran pioneer Col. Mary Louise Rasmuson. As director of the Women’s Army Corps, she created new opportunities for women in the military, particularly Women of Color. When she retired in 1962, she moved to Alaska with her husband, Elmer Rasmuson, a banker and future Anchorage mayor who cofounded Rasmuson Foundation. She gave back to her adopted state just as she had in the military.

Vanessa Meade, a U.S. Army Gulf War Army veteran, and Marine veteran Penney Champney co-lead the community-based steering committee working to increase connection and visibility for women veterans in Alaska through Operation Mary Louise. Alaska has more than 10,000 women veterans, but fewer than one-third are signed up for VA health services. Women veterans can access services through the U.S. Veterans Administration and other state and community organizations but often do not. Through connection, advocacy, and information, the project aims to change that.

The Goals of Operation Mary Louise 

  • Increase enrollment of women veterans in VA and other community-based services 
  • Provide outreach to Alaska women veterans through the website, media, and social media about services available
  • Increase the visibility and understanding of issues related to women veterans in Alaska. 

“I knew what war was. I knew I would have two brothers that would be going into the service, and I saw no reason why women shouldn’t.”  

Mary Louise Rasmuson, speaking about why she entered the service during World War II

Community Partners

Operation Mary Louise’s steering committee also includes representatives from the Alaska Coalition for Veterans and Military Families, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Social Work, the offices of U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, Gold Star Peak, Anchorage Health Department, Rasmuson Foundation, The Alaska Community Foundation and Alaska Public Media. Representatives from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson provided consultation for the project.

In 2013, Rasmuson Foundation endowed a Women Veterans Fund at The Alaska Community Foundation with $500,000 in honor of Mary Louise Rasmuson, who served on the Rasmuson Foundation board for 45 years. ExxonMobil and the Weinberg Foundation are among the other donors. The new project is being housed at the UAA School of Social Work. Project coordinator Vanessa Meade is an assistant professor in social work who earlier founded Alaska Veterans Organization for Women (AVOW), an organization to connect women veterans to their community.

“Too often, women aren’t visible as veterans or connected to services that can assist them. We want women veterans in Alaska to know they are seen and their service is important,”  

Vanessa Meade, a U.S. Army Gulf War Army veteran

Did you know?

  • Alaska is tied (with Virginia) for having the highest number of women veterans per capita in the United States.  
  • There are over 1.7 million women veterans in the United States. 
  • Many women veterans do not know they qualify for services.  
  • Women veterans are the fastest growing population of veterans.
  • Approximately 10,000 women veterans live in Alaska.
  • Less than 1/3 of women veterans in Alaska use VA health services
  • Women veterans are younger and more racially and ethnically diverse than male veterans.
  • In a 2016 Service Women’s Action Network survey, 74% of respondents said the general public did not recognize their service.  

(Sources:  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Alaska VA Healthcare System, Service Women’s Action Network)

Operation Mary Louise Sponsors

About Rasmuson Foundation

Through grantmaking and initiatives, Rasmuson Foundation aims to promote a better life for all Alaskans. Main funding areas are housing, homelessness, education, health care, the arts and organizational and community development. The Foundation was created in 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband, E.A. Rasmuson.

About The Alaska Community Foundation

Established in 1995, The Alaska Community Foundationis a statewide platform for philanthropy that connects people who care with causes that matter. Managing more than $125 million in assets and over 1,000 funds for the benefit of Alaskans, ACF and its Affiliates grant $5 million to $7 million each year to charitable projects and nonprofit organizations across the state. ACF’s mission is to inspire the spirit of giving and connect people, organizations and causes to strengthen Alaska’s communities. For more information, visit www.alaskacf.org or call 907-334-6700.

About the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Social Work

The University of Alaska Anchorage School of Social Work prepares students to become social workers who enhance human well-being and promote social and economic justice. The school is committed to work with veterans and is developing Operation Mary Louise as a community project.