Civic Engagement

Civic Engagement

One of the most rewarding parts of The Washington Center experience is the civic engagement project. This is an opportunity to work on a pressing issue of your choice - veterans, LGBTQ rights, animal welfare, and homelessness - and spend some free time throughout the semester attending educational meetings and direct service events in which you volunteer with organizations currently addressing the given issue. Back in the beginning of the semester when we were figuring out our civic engagement projects, I chose the veterans group, since I had spent a lot of time working on veterans' issues as an intern in Rep. Steve Israel's district office in 2012. Additionally, my grandpa is a Korean War veteran and I'm interested in current veterans' issues, like veterans' appropriations and issues with the VA.

 

 

The educational meetings were really engaging, especially when we were visited by three veterans of Afghanistan who discussed their experiences as both a member of the armed services on the ground and a veteran in civilian life, but perhaps the most interesting thing I did with regards to the veterans civic engagement project was participating in an Honor Flight direct service event. Honor Flight is an organization that organizes World War II-era veterans across the country and transports them (via flight, hence the name) to the magnificent World War II memorial on the National Mall in DC. I attended two of these sessions, in which scores of veterans are given the opportunity to see the memorial, reminisce on their service together, and feel a great sense of pride and patriotism.

 

 

I was able to help veterans from the Hudson River Valley area get on and off the busses and walk around the memorial. It was one of the nicest days of the semester and it was really heartening to see these veterans visibly happy and grateful for the chance to view a memorial that was built solely for their service. As someone who has never even been close to any sort of combat and is, by default, very disconnected from the visceral experiences of a veteran, it was fascinating and educational, in a way, to see their responses and perspectives.

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