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Response to article in Huffington Post, 9.30.2013

ATTN: KIERSTEN DOWNS, Air Force Veteran and Doctoral Student, University of South Florida, Huffington Post Contributor

Reference: We are the narrators of our own history: A call for student Veterans to take charge of their future. Posted 9/30/2013, Huffington Post

RE: SVO United Coalition hosting SVO Mayoral Forum 2013, San Diego, CA

Ms. Downs,

                It could not have been better timing had I come across your article in the Huffington Post that as Veteran organizers were making final arrangements for an upcoming mayoral forum we are hosting for student Veterans. As Founder of the SVO United Coalition- a non-partisan collaboration of student Veteran leaders from local SVO chapters and the chapter advisors uniting resources to support local SVO chapters, SVO members and student Veterans at-large- we are organizing a mayoral forum to bring candidates seeking to be elected as mayor (San Diego) to the student Veterans at-large. This event is to serve as an educational experience by engaging student Veterans in the process of vetting candidates which will take place on October 26, 2013 at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in San Diego from 6-9pm.

                The SVO United Coalition was formed to provide community support and services for Veterans attending a college or university. More so, collaborating with organizations to help sustain the membership outreach and growth of SVO chapters relieves the additional stress of the student Veteran leadership. One organization in support of SVO United Coalition is the Elite SDVOB (Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business) Network- a national 5o1(c)(19) association that provides us guidance and mentorship for aspiring business owners and helps enhance the support of every participating student Veteran at any campus through the transition and coping to Veteran-life to becoming entrepreneurial business owners.

                As referenced in the article, the basis why Veterans attending a college or university were ‘disconnected’ from available resources was the very reason I felt this coalition had to be formed. And unlike organizations that cultivate and invite student Veterans to form chapters of national entities like Student Veterans of America we emphasize our focus and support on the building and retention of student Veterans who engage in their institution’s student Veteran organization. When I was a student Veteran at a community college I also experienced the pro’s and con’s of having a supportive relationship with the college’s Veteran Service Office, and although beneficial overall to have such an alliance in place, the decisions were still not left to the student Veterans to decide without ‘approval’ from the administration.

                Furthermore, as a Marine Corps Veteran that served on active duty from 2000 through 2003 and represented the Marines and Sailors of the 2d FSSG 2d TSB as the Battalion Representative for the Single Marine Program I have also understood the biased nature of how identifying ‘who Veterans are’. For instance, the obvious discussion of Veterans of this generation typically are associated with having served in a combat unit, and therefore only have been in the USMC or Army, and were deployed to Iraq and or Afghanistan, whereas, thousands of men and women who were also on active duty as enlisted and commissioned personnel were also deployed in conflicts and for operations around the world yet the media, and general public at-large, only acknowledge those portrayed in media coverage, excluding thousands of others.

                Also, Veterans and civilians alike presume that every Veteran goes to school and benefits from the G.I. Bill, whereas thousands of service members exit the armed services with less than honorable discharges, therefore, not within eligibility criteria to receive such benefits.

The assumption that if a Veteran were to have a less than honorable discharge is commonly thought to have a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge as a result of being found guilty of a heinous or violent crime which often involves court martial and confinement in the brig.

In addition to the stigma of conditions Veterans are commonly known to share- like PTS(D), TBI, MST- studies have shown etiquette is also a determining factor of ‘non-disclosure of Veteran status’ by students and Veterans at-large. For instance, reports reflect a greater response from women Veterans when asked if [one] ‘have served in the military?’ as to ‘are a Veteran?’.

                From one Veteran leader to another: We must continue our mission. Empowering [student] Veterans will create an awareness of our potential, as skilled and trained Veterans, for our peers. However, even amongst ourselves we don’t understand each other and will require a ‘reprogramming’ of how we think of the life we now live, and how every Veteran should not be acknowledged for only having been in Iraq or Afghanistan. As politicians seek to be our representative I also believe in the practice of engaging in political consciousness by participating in the electoral process, hence, the mayoral forum. Although most returning service members and new Veterans do not have a constructively developed understanding about how politics impacts our daily lives, I seek to make the process of understanding be an educational experience and allow every individual to develop their own conclusion.

                I thank you for the article you submitted to the Huffington Post. If you were willing to cover our efforts here in San Diego to empower our local student Veterans and the upcoming mayoral forum, the coverage and support would be greatly appreciated.


Respectfully Submitted,

Armando Telles, Veteran Organizer

SVO United Coalition

P.O. Box 462284, Escondido, CA 92046

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