This morning I’m marching in the New York City Veterans Day Parade for IAVA’s Operation Unite America. As someone who is both a post-9/11 veteran (I served for five years as a Navy Corpsman alongside Marines) and who advocates for post-9/11 veterans on Capitol Hill, I wanted to share my perspective about how events like Veterans Day and Operation Unite America impact the advocacy efforts for our community.
Advocating for my fellow veterans is often challenging. While elected officials always are quick to express their love and support for our nation’s veterans, showing their thanks through action is less common. There are a few reasons for this: veterans often not be the ones donating large amounts of money to political campaigns, the veteran population itself is small, the civilian-military divide is real, fewer members of Congress have served, and there are very few groups holding politicians accountable if they don’t keep their promises to veterans. Add to the fact that successful advocacy on specific veterans issues often takes months, if not years, of frustrating hard work before success is achieved.
During this incredibly divisive election politicians on both sides of the aisle made promises to the military and veteran community. The question is, will they actually keep those promises? Our campaigns to #DefendTheGIBill, improve VA Accountability, and #PayThemBack have not gone away. If anything, their importance has increased as we approach 2017 with a new Administration and newly elected officials in the House and Senate.
This needs to be a time of resolve for our community. I’ve worked on Capitol Hill and I’ve seen first hand how fast politicians get on the right side of veterans issues when our community makes its voice heard. We need to come together as a community, united behind the work ahead.Something like going to a VetTogether, sending a message to your Member of Congress on veterans issues, or reaching out to our Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP) may not seem like it has a big impact toward veterans advocacy, but it truly does.
With all of these actions, we further unite as a community, and uniting is not only good for post-9/11 veterans, but for the nation. It will help bridge divisions following this incredibly vicious election cycle. So let’s do the impossible and unite around our nation’s veterans to lead our country toward a brighter future.
Time to show our fellow Americans what #VetsRising is about!