Rangel Honors Veterans at CBCF'S Annual Legislative Braintrust Conference
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) joined Representatives Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA) and Corrine Brown (D-FL) to lead the Veterans Braintrust forum at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 43rd Annual Legislative Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Friday, September 20, 2013. The Braintrust brought together federal agency officials, business leaders, retired and active military officials, and a crowd of over 200 veterans, civilians, and caseworkers to discuss the support for soldiers as they transition to civilian life.
"I've been called many things, a liberal, a Democrat, a trouble-maker, but being a veteran is what makes my heart beat a little bit faster." Rangel, a decorated veteran of the Korean War said. "The United States Congress has an obligation to protect you while you are in and to protect you while you are out, because everything good that we are able to do domestically is because you have served."
The forum, titled, "Sequester Cuts & Military Drawdown's Impact on Veterans and Families: Federal Agencies, Budgets, Policies, Programs & Communities," addressed the needs of thousands of veterans who negotiate family life, jobs, education, and healthcare after discharge from the military.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was spared from sequestration, but speakers made it known that the government cuts still affected veterans in profound ways, especially those attempting to ease back into civilian life. Programs the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which help veterans with housing and provide medical care for those dealing combat injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, have felt the sting of government cuts. Said Rep. Sanford Bishop, who is Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies: "(Sequestration is) akin to a virus that is slowly crippling our government, affecting the most vulnerable of our citizens and seriously degrading our military and those that serve in its ranks. If sequestration continues: it will cause a reduction in 2210 soldiers from the army, a reduction in the national guards, and the reserves."
Earlier this May, Rangel introduced legislation, H.R. 758 - The Universal Service Act that seeks to reinstate the draft for all Americans eligible for military service. The bill would make it mandatory for all those 18-25 to either serve in the armed forces or volunteer for a community-based agency serving human needs for a two-year period. The Congressman seeks to prevent the United States from being too quick to wage war with its all-volunteer force, which makes up less than 1% of the overall population.
"We have to be very careful before we subject our men and women to a war." said Rangel. "We think of the families of those soldiers, we think of the funerals we have to attend. Let's make certain that if you're talking about putting American troops in harm's way you are talking about my son my grandson my nephews my community my pastors son, I have a whole lot of answering to do back home as to why I am putting their kids in danger. Let us have a draft of everybody before we start talking about going to war."
Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown, the Deputy Commandant for Mission Support for the U.S. Coast Guard, began by honoring the Congress officials present and recognizing all the veterans in the audience. He reflected on going to the Coast Guard Academy in 1974 as a point of personal pride that gave him the opportunity to give back and be of service. Vice Admiral Brown said he never expected to be the first African American to achieve the rank of Vice Admiral, and acknowledged that without the struggle of those who came before us we would not have achieved what we achieved today. He stated that the Coast Guard is doing what they can to manage and shield their veterans and families from the effects of sequestration.
Admiral Brown's speech was followed by a special presentation by the Montford Point Marine Association to Rep. Corrine Brown and Rebecca Lundgren of 69 Productions regarding the Montford Point Marine movie.
Following the addresses, a panel discussion was held. The panel was moderated by Ron Armstead of the Veterans Braintrust. Making up the first panel was Mike Haynie, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University; Darlene Young, National President of Blacks in Government (BIG); Col. Kevn Preston, USA, Ret., Director of Human Resources for the Veterans Initiative at the Walt Disney Corp.; Lewis Runnion of Bank of America; The Honorable Setti Warren, Mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, and Chairman of the Community Development and Housing Committee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Rear Admiral W. Clyde Marsh, USN, Ret., President of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs (NASDVA) and Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs; Mike Betz, General Manager of Military Student Initiatives, Education Corporation of America; John K. Moran, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Veterans Employment and Training Services at the Department of Labor; Everest Kelley, AFGE National Vice President; Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, MBA, Ph.D., Director of the Military Family Research Institute and the Center for Families at Purdue University; and Rep. Calvin Smyre of Georgia, former President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.
The event opened with music from the Military Quartet. Military Chaplain Michael L. McCoy, Sr. gave the invocation and the closing benediction.