FSU PC faculty member, vet tackles homelessness for Ms. Veteran America

Erica Martin

A local educator competing for the title of Ms. Veteran America is raising awareness of the 55,000 homeless women veterans nationwide – the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. Stacey VanDyke, the program administrator for FSU Panama City’s master’s nurse anesthesia program and a 20-year veteran of the Air Force, will compete in the Seventh Annual Ms. Veteran America competition, celebrating The Woman Beyond the Uniform,” Oct. 7 in Los Angeles.

VanDyke decided to compete for the title after the inaugural showing of “Served Like a Girl,” a documentary on veteran homelessness. After speaking to patrons about her experience and struggles serving in the Air Force, she realized she could do more to help.

“Amidst the tears of laughter and pain throughout the movie, I felt embarrassed about what I had just said the two hours prior, for nothing I uttered on that stage could hold a candle to the issue of homelessness among female veterans,” she said. “There I stood, having just traveled the 12 miles from my safe home in my dependable car, wearing the rank of retired lieutenant colonel, wiping my tears away and wondering how I could make a difference.”

She asked for an application that same day. After placing in the top 25 during the semifinals June 9 in Arlington, Virginia, she earned a chance to compete for the title.

The Ms. Veteran America competition honors the service of the over 2 million women who have worn the U.S. military uniform and reminds us of the women who have made the ultimate sacrifice during their military service. Proceeds benefit Final Salute, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit that has provided safe and suitable housing to more than 5,000 homeless women veterans and their children. The organization has raised over $3 million to support to homeless women veterans and their children. 

“I want to be a positive example to other veterans in my community, to my students and my children,” VanDyke said. “I have seen a side of homelessness that I have been fortunate enough to avoid.”

VanDyke joined the U.S. Air Force in 1996, serving as a clinician and educator both nationally and abroad. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2013 and previously served as director of the Nurse Anesthesia Clinical Residency Training Program at Eglin Hospital. She has led FSU Panama City’s nurse anesthesia program since 2016.

To donate to her campaign, visit https://crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/staceyv4mva2018. Follow her journey through the competition on Facebook or Twitter.