Why I'm Running...

 

I was born in Texas into a middle class family due to the hard work, dreams and determination of my mother and father. He owned a furniture shop and she owned a flower shop. Unfortunately, when I was five years old my father suffered a stroke and our family lost everything. While he was in the hospital our house was broken into and we were robbed, which was the start of a lifelong struggle for all of us.

My mother moved my sister and I, up to Detroit when I was seven, into an area known as “Mexican Town”. Growing up in this beautiful, thriving, family-centered community, rich in culture, where neighbors still act like neighbors and look out for one another, was a wonderful experience. This taught me the importance of community and kinship, that for a community to prosper, everyone needs to stand up for each other and invest back into their own neighborhoods and businesses.

After graduating high school I chose to serve my country and enlisted in the Marine Corps. Serving as an active duty Marine for nine years I had the opportunity to see the world and show the people of the world, the pride I had as an American citizen. My time overseas in the service also highlighted many of the issues and struggles which the people of America, and the world, are still facing.

Whether I was stationed in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm during the 1st Iraqi War, seeing first-hand the effects of the normalization of the oppression of women; or in Japan for two and a half years, noticing the differences and similarities between their culture and ours, every experience was a learning experience. Even while participating in exercises in Thailand and the Philippines, I was able to see the rampant poverty and disregard for their fellow citizens which prevails in a country run by an oligarchy, this is something WE must guard against.

Following my time in the military and returning to civilian life, like many other veterans, I faced the daunting task of reconnecting with the community and adjusting back to a “normal” life, in my case my “culture shock” lasted almost as long as my service. The anxiety and depression I experienced at the time, which I learned later; developed because I was experiencing PTSD, cut me off from the world; and led me down a path of self-destruction. It seemed like every day was worse than the last.

Luckily, I met a veteran at a free clothing distribution center who told me about innovative programs at the Detroit VA. While it took me several months to build the courage to ask for help and stay there long enough to see someone, it became a turning point in my life. Benefiting from the newly developed female support and addiction support groups at the VA, I was able to enter the VA’s CWT (Compensated Work Therapy) program, which helps veterans through mentorship, teaching soft skills, and training to overcome job stressors.

Eventually this led to a full-time position at the Battle Creek VA. While the work itself was not very glamorous, it was extremely rewarding, and I loved going to work every day. Being able to interact with veterans at various stages of their treatment allowed me to give them hope, and the belief that they could get through it too. Giving me the opportunity to give something back to my fellow veterans, helping to catch my “brothers and sisters” when they were in trouble, and making sure they got help before it was too late.

My compassion and desire to help others has led me to become a community and political awareness volunteer, a GED math tutor, and a volunteer with the IRS VITA program (which provides free tax return preparation for low income earners). It has also compelled me to enroll at Western Michigan University to complete an accounting degree; not just for my benefit but also for the benefit of the Veterans whom I still see as my family.

I have always planned after my graduation to return to the VA in some capacity and continue to serve my fellow veterans, to utilize my skills to make a positive impact on them and the community as a whole. Yet, with the current partisanship in Washington, D.C. and the number of representatives who speak for their party’s voters only and special interest money instead of, all of their constituents; I have chosen to run for the office of US House representative for Michigan’s 6th district. To fight for the rights and welfare of all the district constituents, not just for special interest groups or a select group of individuals; so that all of us can work together, towards a future of better days.

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