main banner

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ralph Northam reaches out to veterans

Ralph Northam meets with veterans and service members. 
The upcoming elections have “tremendous implications,” said Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who’s running for governor. “The direction the country is going – toward bigotry and hatred –  is not the country I know.”

The immigration ban is harming people who risked their lives abroad while working for the U.S. military, he said at a campaign stop in Mason District Feb. 12. “For us as a great country, as a nation of immigrants, to turn our backs on these individuals is wrong.”

Northam faces former U.S. Rep Tom Perriello in the Democratic primary on June 13. Four Republicans are running in their party’s primary, also on June 13.

At the meet-and-greet session, with veterans and military personnel, Northam said he wants to continue the efforts of Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring “to make Virginia the most veteran-friendly state in the nation.”

Virginia was the first state to end homelessness for veterans, Northam said. The state went from having 1,200 homeless veterans to zero, after joining the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.   

The state also adopted the V3 program – which stands for Virginia Values Veterans – to give businesses incentives to hire vets. The original goal, to hire 20,000 vets, has already been exceeded – 25,000 were hired – and the new goal is 30,000 by the end of McAuliffe’s term.

Telling a veteran “thank you for your service,” is appreciated but isn’t enough, Northam said. Veterans need access to jobs and training and should receive educational credits for their military experiences. Mental health services are critical, too, he said, noting that every day 22 veterans take their lives. “They’ve seen things no human would want to see.” Veterans’ families also need services, especially children who feel stressed by having to move frequently.

Northam’s background in the military should help him connect with veterans. After growing up on a farm on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Northam went to Virginia Military Institute and joined the Army. After completing medical school, he served as an Army doctor at the Landstuhl Army Base in Germany, where he treated soldiers wounded in Desert Storm.

He is currently a pediatric neurologist in Norfolk. He decided to run for the Virginia Senate in 2007 after becoming frustrated with the healthcare system, served two terms, then was elected lieutenant governor in 2011.

When Northam left the military in 1992, he signed the papers and was told, “best of luck.” That’s not good enough, he said. More needs to be done to help former service members make the transition into civilian life.

1 comment: