If you’re following my posts now, or have been for the last few years, you’ll find lots of pieces related to veteran health care, post-deployment suicide and military sexual assault. If you’re not a veteran or military-connected family member you might be asking, “What does that have to do with me?” Plenty. But I’ll give you two good reasons to start.
It’s the basis of advocacy. After serving my first nine years of adulthood in the Army and Iowa National Guard, military issues became near and dear to my heart because my brothers and sisters-in-arms became my lifelong family. And a big one. According to a Veterans Day Washington Post article summarizing 2012 US Census data on vets there are 21.2M veterans in America and 1.6M are women. 9.6M veterans are over age 65 and 3.6M have a service-connected disability. Yet even with numbers that large, veteran issues are often under-funded, mismanaged or overlooked. With nearly 10,000 Iowa National Guard members currently serving in our state, and many of them in my district at Camp Dodge in Johnston, it’s critical that they have at voice at the Statehouse.
Passion can make a person drop everything to tirelessly pursue his or her purpose. It enabled me to be a key player in the passing of SF 2321 that outlined better protection for Iowa Guard members that are victims of sexual trauma. And that story made it all the way to Washington too, reminding me that what we do in the Hawkeye state has impact beyond its borders. The same is true for my passion on military issues. It doesn’t stop there.
After my book on the Iraq war was published two years ago, I traveled across our state (and beyond) educating 100+ audiences about military life and leadership, the history of women in the Armed Forces, and reintegration issues facing combat veterans. From the small-town library in Lewis to the grand opening of my hometown library in Cedar Rapids, from Waukee and Ames’ Rotary clubs to retired women in-home book clubs, to the five-state United Auto Workers Veterans Conference in Ottawa, Illinois to the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park near Chicago and all the way to the Academy Women Conference at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington… I’ve connected and joined forces with the missions of groups that are working to improve the lives of its members and the communities they live in. And most of them are not veterans, they’re simply caring citizens. They are their brother’s keeper. They are good neighbors and proud American patriots.
How can we connect to centralize this force for positive change and practical progress right here in Urbandale, Johnston and Grimes? Attend one of my upcoming events, or send me an invitation to participate in a group you’re passionate about. We can make a difference together.
Thank you to Dawn Bishop-Tree for the photo.