“As veterans, our job is to serve the people,” Melissa Robbins, moderator of The Citizen co-sponsored town hall Veterans and Civic Engagement, said Thursday evening. “I hope to echo that sentiment for the rest of my life as a civilian.”
For the four panelists sitting on either side of Robbins, an activist and political consultant, at the VFW Hall in Northeast Philly, civilian service is a way of life—something that veterans can easily identify with. Co-sponsored by the Veterans Multi-Service Center, the panel included citizen activists from varying types of organizations: DeWayne Drummond, president of the Mantua Civic Association; Jack Innacker, Mission365 Project Manager, Global Citizen; Andrew Dalzell, State Rep. Jared Solomon’s chief of staff; and former Citizen Social Action Coordinator Stephen St.Vincent, who is now deputy policy director for Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
The round table-style conversation touched on issues that varied from integrating back into civilian life after the military, to what it means to be civically engaged, and how we can access the need and desire to serve that motivate citizens to join the military in the first place—and that they bring back with them.
In the end, the most important point that came from the 90-minute discussion was one that seems so simple to implement (though it is not always): Stay connected.
“The human connection is so important,” said Robbins, answering her own question about how to be a better citizen. “We are designed to be connected. Don’t ignore each other.”
“The one thing I’ve realized about this war called poverty is that there are many battles,” said Mantua Civic Association’s Dewayne Drummond. “Change is good, it can have a cost, it can have sacrifice. It’s been an uphill battle, but we can still win the war in the long run.”
“Empathy is the power that’s going to drive connection in our communities,” said Amanda Rondon, regional director for Team RWB, which connects veterans with their communities through physical and social activities. Rondon, whose brother is a vet, came to the event with an RWB volunteer, Shelley Rodgers.
Another of our guests, Aquisha Marrero, from UESF, an organization that has worked with 200 homeless vets in the last four years. “If you come across a veteran in need, connect them with UESF,” Marrero says.