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Stories of Service: Northeast Florida Women Veterans

Florida is home to the third largest population of women veterans in the nation. Unfortunately, it's a population that is currently struggling to make ends meet.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Duval County has the highest population of women veterans in the state, and they need our help. 

They are the fastest growing segment of homeless veterans, have a higher unemployment rate and are more likely to live below the poverty line than male veterans.  

But, the good news is there's an organization in Jacksonville that is stepping in to help. 

"I actually went aboard my first ship when I was 17. So, I wasn't quite 18 yet," Natalie Marcano-Sidberry said. 

Marcano-Sidberry was in the United States Navy for 11 years. Now, she's a case manager with Northeast Florida Women Veterans. She helps veterans with clothing, toiletries, counseling and financial needs. 

"The majority of female veterans are living off their disability check alone. Sometimes disability deems they can't work anywhere else or sometimes their PTSD doesn't allow them to be around people," Marcano-Sidberry added.

It's something she knows personally. The Navy veteran was once homeless and living with military sexual trauma. 

"I had good times, and I had bad times. The PTSD from the military sexual trauma that happened just started unsettling itself," Marcano-Sidberry remembered. 

Unable to live a normal life and pay her bills, Natalie was helped by Dee Quaranta, an Air Force veteran who started the Northeast Florida Women Veterans organization in 2012. 

It was her mission to help just one veteran. Now, she's helping 300 families. 

"I keep saying it's not about the accolades and awards we get. It's about that one woman saying yesterday I had planned out my suicide, but today, I've changed my mind," Quaranta told First Coast News. 

Northeast Florida Women Veterans was honored at The Players Championship last week and received a $50,000 surprise donation.  

If you're a woman veteran who needs help, click here.

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