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A Civilian’s Perspective on SxSWi

Yesterday, March 17th, was the last day of SXSW Interactive. I participated as a badge-holder each day of the massive festival-turned-conference, and I am now exhausted. I was lucky enough to attend on behalf of IAVA because I work at the Texas Veterans Commission, a state agency that provides public services to Texas veterans and their families.

My co-worker and I, an IAVA member and young Army veteran, made a point to watch and experience any SXSW Interactive panels, meet-ups or discussions that veterans or active-duty military were a part of. We saw Jimi Letchford, Marine veteran and Global Brand Manager for CrossFit, give a talk about the importance of CrossFit in many people’s lives. We listened to Colonel Jennifer Carter talk about her experience in the Marines as a female soldier and tell a beautiful story about her travels overseas. We met up with veterans and soldiers when possible, and spread the word to eager civilians at meet-ups who wanted to contribute.

The most impactful event that we were a part of was TXSVETS, a party that we helped host on behalf of Texas Veterans Commission. It was held at the Brass House downtown, next to the Austin Convention Center. We started with mingling, free food and drinks, and then showed a screening of the Oscar-winning short documentary, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. Though it was short, the documentary certainly made an impression on both the veteran and non-veteran attendees. We followed up with a discussion of veterans and mental health, in which panelists, whose backgrounds intersected between veterans’ issues and psychology, weighed in on how to improve upon practices that might help veterans in crisis.

Overall, I learned so much at SXSWi. It was nice to hear from veterans and service members who are making big changes in their respective fields. I think that SXSWi could use more veteran intervention, but I enjoyed being a part of the conversation and seeing that young veterans have a broad space in which to connect.

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