Five years ago today my life was changed in a major way. I was injured in Mosul, Iraq when an improvised explosive device (IED) sent shrapnel into my brain. Throughout the last five years, things could have gone one way or the other, from possibly not living through the initial blast to not ever becoming a functioning member of society. It has been a long tough fight and it has never been easy. I have fought every step of the way, sometimes fighting myself and loved ones along the way. I did survive and became not only a fully functioning member of society, but a member of society that believes that one vote can make a difference.
I was not very political before my injury and never even really voted. I was frequently deployed and never had any politicians speak to me about what I cared about. And I never thought that I could change anything by voting.
I was in Walter Reed before it became a national story. I saw the horrible treatment firsthand. I saw soldiers getting lost in the shuffle, inundated with paperwork and excuses from the military. I found myself in the same situation and I was unhappy. I vowed to myself that if I could find a way, I would make sure that it never happened again, to anyone.
I looked into various groups to try to help. Nothing seemed to fit. I wrote to various people in hopes of getting some change. No one seemed to listen. I talked to as many politicians as I could. They all seemed preoccupied with other issues.
The first fuse was lit when I heard Jim Webb speak when he was running for the Senate. Here was a man in my state talking about things that mattered to me. Here was a man who had been in my boots and had a son in harm’s way. He spoke about a new GI bill and getting better treatment for veterans and service members. But he was down in the polls. I talked to as many people as I could and made sure they knew why I supported Webb. I woke up early and voted, enthusiastically for the first time. I watched the polls and cheered when he came out on top.
The second fuse was lit when I was approached to be a member of VoteVets.org. Here was an organization that made sense to me. Here was an organization that stood for everything that mattered to me; responsible redeployment from Iraq, better care for veterans, and holding elected officials accountable for their actions. I jumped in with both feet, took off running, and never looked back.
The third and final fuse was lit when this election cycle rolled around and the candidates were talking about the things that are important to me and all veterans. For the first time in my life, the candidates were talking to me. Neither party was taking my vote for granted, and I was excited.
I followed every candidate from the day they announced their candidacy and voted in the primary for the first time in my life.
Now, I am getting ready to vote on November 4th. And I will be voting for more than just a candidate.
I will be voting for better care for all veterans.
I will be voting to fully fund the VA.
I will be voting to responsibly redeploy from Iraq.
I will be voting to take the fight to Al-Qeada.
I will be voting to end the stop loss.
I will be voting for my brothers and sisters in arms.
It took an IED in Iraq for me to figure out that I needed to get out and vote. I hope that no one ever has to go through the same horrible experience to wake up and vote. So it is up to you to get out and vote on November 4th. If you don’t, you will not only be letting your country and your family down, you will be letting us down.
Do your research, find what candidate and issues speak to you, and vote. Whoever you choose to support, make sure you go out and support that candidate by pulling the lever.
Crossposted at VetVoice.com
Update: Wow! I made it to the rec list. Thank you everyone for all the comments. I have decided to celebrate this anniversary as a blessing and not a tragedy.
Update 2: Thank you all for the comments. This is a message that needs to be out there. I would love to be able to read the rest of the comments tonight but I am out the door for a cocktail event. I will catch up on them tomorrow!!!