Bobi Pike-Oates continues to campaign for female veterans
DAV Life Member Roberta “Bobi” Pike-Oates was selected by the Nevada Department of Veterans’ Services as Nevada’s Veteran of the Month for December, and was presented the award by Governor Brian Sandoval during a ceremony Dec. 2.
The Veteran of the Month award recognizes Nevada veterans who contribute their time and energy to support veterans, their communities or the military.
Pike-Oates, a member of Chapter 13 in Las Vegas, grew up wanting to be a police officer in a small town in Vermont. After attaining her associate’s degree in criminal justice, she worked briefly as a deputy sheriff before enlisting in the Air Force in 1976 as an aircraft mechanic.
“I didn’t think I’d make it four years,” said Pike-Oates, who retired in 1999 as a senior master sergeant. “I made it 23.”
Today her mission, and the work for which she was honored, involves a different type of maintenance: fixing the fractured relationship the military and veteran communities share with women who have served.
She began volunteering just about 10 years ago with Women Veterans of Nevada. She is now on the executive board and the ceremonial team that handles weekly funerals at Boulder Cemetery for veterans who have died homeless or in the absence of loved ones.
“It’s a way to make sure no vet passes without being honored and remembered,” said Pike-Oates.
Based on that service, in the summer of 2014 Governor Brian Sandoval appointed her to the five-member Nevada Women Veterans Advisory Committee, as statewide group put together to identify female veterans in the state and to advocate on their behalf.
“Government statistics tell us that there are 22,000 women veterans in Nevada, but only 2,500 have been identified and registered with the VA for benefits,” said Dixie Thompson, also a member of Las Vegas Chapter 13. “Bobi has made it her mission to find them all and get them the benefits they have earned.”
Pike-Oates understands the importance of female veterans identifying as such, as they run the risk of not receiving all of their earned benefits, to include education and health care, if they do not.
“So many women don’t self identify as veterans,” said Pike-Oates. “We need to let them know they are not alone, and that there are other women veterans out there ready and willing to help them. It’s like we fought for our place in the military and now we are fighting for our place in the veterans’ world.”
The Women Veterans Advisory Committee has proposed a change to some verbiage for state agencies that collect veteran data. The recommended change would alter key words to help individuals identify correctly as veterans. As the question is stated now, it reads, “Are you a veteran?” The proposed change would alter the question to read, “Have you ever served in the United States Military?”
This may seem like a small proposal, but as Pike-Oates says many older female veterans believe they had to serve in combat to be a veteran. This is simply not the case and these veterans deserve the benefits they have earned.
Pike-Oates says DAV is leading the charge in closing this informational gap with female veterans.
“The last few years DAV has put out many publications about women in the military, and have testified before congress on their behalf. I’ve used DAV material about women in the military a whole lot and I have shared it with all our committee members,” said Pike-Oates.
“As a member of the Nevada Women Veterans Advisory Committee I want to let women of Nevada know that we are there for them and to provide the tools they need,” said Pike-Oates. “Women have served, and they’ve all been volunteers, because women have never been drafted. Sometimes, we weren’t even wanted, but we’ve always been there.”
“Bobi always seems very quiet, almost shy,” said Thompson. “But if she has it in her mind to do something, don’t get in her way. She’s not aggressive, but she is very persistent and always pushes forward.”
“I feel very fortunate and honored to know Bobi and be considered a friend,” said Thompson. “Like most retirees of any branch, she has a heart for our veterans and especially our forgotten veterans – the women. She works tirelessly not only for the women veterans, but also in trying to identify them.”
“I couldn’t be prouder of one of our own leading the way in Nevada for our female veterans,” said DAV National Membership Director Doug Wells. “We believe in every member being a recruiter to serve the best interest of our veterans, and she has taken it upon her own shoulders to locate female veterans and get them into the VA health care system, and I am glad to see her efforts recognized.”
“Bobi is a force of nature working for our women veterans,” said Thompson. “We feel blessed every day to have her here working for us.”
For Pike-Oates it has never been about her or her own accomplishments, but rather the people around her who see can help.
“I’m just a voice for the committee, and a voice for the Women Veterans of Nevada organization to help the Nevada Department of Veteran Services reach out to all the women veterans in the state,” said Pike-Oates. “It’s not about me, it’s about them.”
“So many women before us laid the groundwork for us,” Pike-Oates said. “We need to continue their work and do the same for the next generation of military women.”