Those of us who have served in or have ties with the military are used to seeing how much stronger we can be when we work together. It’s bred into us from our very first day of training. It’s not surprising, then, to see that carry over into our volunteer work.
Before I got involved with UCSD’s Veteran Staff Association, I had already been active with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (iava.org), the largest non-profit, non-partisan, national veteran organization focused on connecting, uniting, and empowering post-9/11 veterans, counting roughly 425,000 veterans, family, and supporters as members.
IAVA does incredible work and is ranked highly on Charity Navigator. There’s the policy advocacy, which has resulted in important legislation, like the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act, as well as defending veteran benefits. Congress recently proposed massive cuts to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and IAVA responded with 31,000 member letters to Congress, meetings at eighty-one Senate offices, and even ad campaigns in hometown newspapers of hold-out Senators. The cuts haven’t passed. There’s also the Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP) where masters-level social workers provide personal case attention in assisting veterans with transition issues, helping 6,000 veterans since 2012.
But some of the most moving things I’ve seen have been at local IAVA “VetTogethers.” These are low key get-togethers for veterans and supporters, helping get the word out and build camaraderie. Seeing the connections made and rekindled at these events has been powerful to me.
So I was particularly happy when UCSD’s VSA and IAVA partnered recently to host on campus a screening of a documentary and panel discussion about a little known unit in the military: “The Unknowns.” The event was great and attracted veterans and civilians alike!
I’m not unusual in being active in more than one veteran organization. Many of the most active IAVA members are also members of Team Rubicon, Team Red White and Blue, The Travis Manion Foundation, and others, not to forget UCSD’s VSA! Anytime these organizations collaborate, it’s a force multiplier in the fight to support and remember our nation’s roughly 22 million veterans. After all, we’ve seen what teamwork can do.