One Door Closes and Another Opens

As I sit here surrounded by the executive leadership of the California Veteran Community.  It’s day 2 of the CalVet Leadership Summit,  a gathering of the Senior and Executive Level leaders of US Dept. of Veterans Affairs, CA Veterans Affairs, the County VSOs,  DAV,  American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America,  Swords to Plowshares, VetFund Foundation, other Veteran Service Organizations from around the state.  I’ve never seen every VA Medical Center and Regional Office, and County  VSO in one room at the same time.  The newly appointed CalVet Secretary, Dr Vito Imbasciani MD called this summit to identify barriers faced by the Veterans of California and create strategies and alliances to better serve the Veterans.  The Secretary and other leaders have set a tone of leaving politics and agendas at the door.

I was asked to attend and represent the LGBT Veterans in the State. The timing of this Summit couldn’t have been more perfect.  I was laid off from my position at VOA as a Peer Support Specialist in the HUD-VASH Program due to lack of funding. With my experience of being an underemployed and homeless Veteran I have an insight in the struggles of the Veterans that most of these leaders don’t know first hand.  At first I asked myself why am I here?  I don’t belong in this room surrounded by these executives with travel budgets and resources to give up a week to travel to the Capitol. However, some how The gods smiled down on me and made this opportunity possible.

When I return back to LA,  I’ll be using the contacts made here to plan the upcoming Operation: Do Ask,  Do Tell 2016 and establish resources and programs for the Veterans in LA,  and possibly find a new position working to continue to serve LGBT Veterans not only in LA but across the State.

Why I fight…

I know this is from an old episode, but it just proves that I must continue to fight for the rights of my brothers and sisters in arms. So that someday soon, NO Veteran, Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, Coast Gaurdsman, Reservist, or National Gaurdsman has to go thru this again. We first and foremost are men and women  that proudly served our county, and some of us happen to have loved ones that happen to be Lesbian, Gay, Bi or Transgender which deserve to be at our side when we need them the most. Personally I haven’t experienced this, but know many who have. It can be the worst feeling in the world to know that you can’t be there at your loved ones side when they need you, or to properly say good bye. That they had to go thru this tragedy alone, when you aren’t allowed to be there or even recognized as a loved one. Some day soon, we will all be able to enjoy the freedoms and rights as people, and the labels of today will be a thing of the past.

 

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