Women’s History Month Collage background provided by TriWest.

Celebrating Women’s History through the Inspiring Stories of Three TriWest Employees

“The love we have for our families and our country is one of our biggest strengths. We should celebrate this month with pride and honor.” – Maria Martin, TriWest Employee

From as far back as the Revolutionary War when women served as nurses, to women in combat and leadership positions today, from military spouses and mothers to caretakers and community advocates, women have always played a vital role in support of our country.

Women’s History Month gives us an opportunity to honor the countless contributions women have made, reflect on the many roles they’ve played, and celebrate their accomplishments and sacrifices.

For this article, we will share the inspiring stories of three TriWest Healthcare Alliance (TriWest) employees, each with a unique story and a deep connection to our nation’s Veterans.

Pamela Little, Air Force Veteran, TriWest Claims Customer Service Representative

Pamela Little is a lifelong supporter of Veterans – experiencing life as a military child, a military spouse, a military mom and as a Veteran herself.

Pamela’s father was in the Air Force, so from the time she was born, Pamela traveled to different Air Force bases until he retired. As she grew up, her father’s Service made its impact.Collage of TriWest employee Pamela Little.

“By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” she said.

After graduation, Pamela joined the Air Force, working as a hospital administrative specialist for several years. In the early 80s, only certain positions were open to women in the military, but even with those limitations, Pamela was grateful to serve.

“I am thankful that I had the opportunities the Air Force provided me. Serving my country in any role gave me a deep sense of pride,” Pamela said.

During her time in the military, Pamela met and married her husband, who was also in the Air Force. When she became pregnant with her first child, Pamela left the military and took on the role of military spouse. Pamela’s husband continued serving in the Air Force and the Air Force Reserve. After 9/11, he joined the Army Reserve, completing a tour in Afghanistan.

Pamela’s sons felt the call of military service as well. Pamela’s youngest son served in the Army Reserve and did a tour in Iraq, and her oldest is currently serving as a Chaplain in the Army National Guard.

Pamela’s lifelong connection to the military makes her job at TriWest one she can do with deep empathy, compassion and understanding. Pamela is a Customer Service Representative in the claims department, helping providers get their claims completed accurately and educating them on important processes and procedures.

“If we want to attract and keep providers in the network so Veterans have the options they need to get their medical care, we need to provide excellent customer service to our providers,” she said.

Pamela is quick to point out the important role other women have played in her own success.

“I am thankful there have always been women who have taken the challenge, who pushed through to obtain roles, who sought out challenges that were previously not available to them,” Pamela said.

Even as early as high school, Pamela was determined to take on challenges and push through obstacles. With older brothers on the cross-country team, Pamela grew up going to their meets.

“I loved watching the boys break out from between the trees and seeing my brothers fight for the lead in the race,” she said.

But when Pamela got to high school, there wasn’t a girls’ cross-country team for her to join, so she made up her mind to go out for the boys’ team and finish the season.

“I was the first girl in my high school to do that,” Pamela said.

She remembers not being great – often coming in dead last – but she loved it.

“That’s just a small example of something. There are so many women who have achieved their dreams and pushed through obstacles to achieve much more lofty dreams,” she added.

This is something she hopes her own children and grandchildren will learn from as well.

“I hope that my beautiful daughter and my four granddaughters will be able to choose a path that maybe wouldn’t have been available to them before. My hope is that they will pursue any passion they may have and achieve their dreams,” she shared.

When Pamela reflects on Women’s History Month, she hopes more people realize the contributions all women make – not only in the military and in their careers but also in support of their families.

“Those who have chosen to serve in the military for their career, as well as those who have chosen to support their Veterans behind the scenes, they sacrifice a lot,” she said. “I hope by what I do I am showing not only the Veterans but their families that we are grateful for their service and that their sacrifice has been noticed.”

Maria Martin, Veteran Spouse and Caretaker, TriWest Claims Customer Service Representative

Maria Martin was born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. When she was eight years old, her mother married a retired Veteran, 1st Sergeant Isaac Jones.

“We became U.S. citizens thanks to my father,” she said.

When Maria was 20, she married a soldier. “We were stationed in Ft. Bliss and had orders to go to Germany,” she said.

During their eight-year marriage, Maria gave birth to two sons in Germany and their youngest was born in El Paso, Texas.

“Now I have three wonderful granddaughters and two grandsons,” Maria shared.Collage of TriWest employee Maria Martin.

As a single mother for more than 15 years, Maria made her children her priority, working hard to support her family and spend time with her sons. In 2016, she began working at TriWest. She remembers her first job, taking calls and speaking with Veterans – something she’d never done before.

“Talking to Veterans took me back to when my father got sick and needed medical care. I remember how caring VA was to him,” she reflected.

Maria said listening to Veterans who were in pain or who needed medical assistance was hard, but she enjoyed speaking to them and helping them get the care they needed.

From there, Maria transferred to the claims department.

“To make sure medical claims are being paid takes a load off our nation’s Veterans,” she shared.

Maria saw firsthand how worried her husband would get when he received a bill, but now that he understands the process, he is more at ease.

“That was my goal with our Veteran callers,” she said.

Now Maria works in the claims account management department, where she answers questions and resolves issues for providers, making sure Veterans are able to get the best care possible.

Maria’s work on behalf of our country’s Veterans is deeply personal. For the past 12 years, Maria has been married to a Veteran. Her husband has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among other medical issues, and she admits that caring for someone with PTSD is hard.

“Patience, love and grace from God keep us hanging on,” she said.

She is honest about the challenges – pointing out that there are good days and other days where a particular tone of voice may trigger him or make him upset. “Making plans for the future is always difficult,” she shared.

But Maria has learned to rely on others and find support in their journey.

“Thank God for help from VA – they helped him get back on track,” Maria said. And she knows she isn’t the only one experiencing these challenges.

“Our young military spouses have to deal with this every time our soldiers are deployed and suffer some kind of trauma,” she said. “They are special people; they are the heart of our soldiers.”

As Maria’s own story highlights, women play a wide range of roles in support of our country – as spouses, mothers, caretakers and more.

“When our soldiers are deployed, spouses stay behind to keep their homes and families together,” she shared. “It’s not easy. I remember many lonely days and nights, but our soldiers need to know that everything is OK at home in order to do their jobs.”

As Maria reflects on Women’s History Month, she says it’s something that’s “long deserved.”

“Life challenges us with ups and downs, and we stand every time,” Maria said. “The love we have for our families and our country is one of our biggest strengths. We should celebrate this month with pride and honor. We deserve a year, but a month is a good start.”

Sharon Torres, Veteran Advocate, TriWest Contract Quality Care Analyst

Sharon Torres works at TriWest as a Contract Quality Care Analyst and has worked in the medical field since 1980. Her “Yes, I can!” attitude has been pervasive throughout her entire career.

Sharon worked for several years at the University of Southern California, earning many degrees along the way, including Medical Business Management, Professional Business Writing and more. As she started out, Sharon recalled feeling intimidated at times.

“I remember going to class and seeing doctors and lawyers. I felt like dropping out, but they encouraged me to stay, and I did,” she shared.Collage of TriWest employee Sharon Torres.

Sharon went on to manage seven divisions within the Department of Surgery there, something she describes as a big challenge, but also rewarding.

“I have always loved working with physicians and staff, going above and beyond,” Sharon said. She believes her positive attitude is a big piece of her success.

“Believe in yourself and you can achieve anything,” she added.

Sharon’s work at TriWest is only part of what she does on behalf of Veterans. She is a proud member of the American Legion Post in Buckeye, Ariz., where she helps with events and fundraising.

“I have always helped Veterans in our community,” Sharon said.

Before starting at TriWest, Sharon was an editor for the local newspaper, covering stories important to Veterans in her community. In this role, she had the honor of meeting John McCain, a U.S. Veteran and Senator from Arizona, while covering the Palo Verde Generating Station.

“I even had the privilege to fly up with the Thunderbirds at Luke Air Force Base,” she recalled.

Like Pamela and Maria, Sharon has personal connections to the military as well. She was married to a Marine for 20 years and had several uncles who served in the Army. She spent many years caring for her Uncle Ernie. She takes great pride in the changes he’s undergone, such as eating a healthier diet, getting a full set of dentures and learning to walk without a cane.

As Women’s History Month approaches, Sharon reminds women to be proud of themselves and all the things they’ve accomplished.

“Make a difference and achieve something you can be proud of,” Sharon said.

She follows her own advice and is proud of her work volunteering to feeding the homeless, teaching women about domestic violence and being an amazing parent. She became part of organizations such as the Leadership Academy, Volunteer Police Academy, a horse rescue farm and more.

Sharon understands that many women, like her, take on huge roles and responsibilities with the goal of making a difference in the lives of others. She reminds women to find “me time” and take care of themselves.

“You cannot take care of others if you don’t take care of yourselves first. Exercise, eat well, keep hydrated and always have a ‘Yes, I can!’ attitude,” she shared.

In recognizing women like Pamela, Maria and Sharon, we are able to see how important women are to the very fabric of our country. We see their dedication, their work and their sacrifice on behalf of our Veterans and this country. We listen to their stories and hope the next generation of women finds inspiration in their words and experiences.

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