Fostering the Cause

By Allan Anderson, USA/USMC (Ret)

As the son of a WWII Army infantryman who served in the Pacific Campaign, as the father of a disabled Army Veteran who served as an infantryman in Afghanistan, and as a Marine Corps and Army Veteran myself, the American Veterans Vote (AVV) organization is near to my heart.

We are at a point in this country where our nation’s political leaders support open borders and benefits to the millions of immigrants who came into this country illegally. They are often provided with free cell phones, housing, healthcare, and legal services. But homeless Veterans languish, their behavioral and physical health problems are largely unresolved.  Even Veterans who are not homeless face obstacles.

My dad and I, along with my son, who was in the VA hospital system at that time, periodically discussed our frustration with the Veterans Administration and the poor support provided to Veterans. My dad passed away before we could get him into the VA hospital system for end-of-life treatment and hospice care. After months of waiting on a decision, the VA contacted me about two months after my dad passed away to say that he had been approved.

So, what can we do?

The American Veterans Vote newly refurbished website clearly spells out actions we can and are taking to support Veterans and their families, in large part by getting out the Veteran vote. And we can be a voice for AVV and Veterans causes through our day-to-day involvement in our community. Word of mouth is always the best way to promote a product. One way I am doing so is by working as a substitute teacher in the Prince William County Schools system.

As a 68-year-old Veteran with a lot of miles under my belt (thank you light infantry and Army Rangers!), teaching math, science, and music classes four to five days a week isn’t easy (I’m also a retired engineer and amateur trumpet player). But when I introduce myself to students at the beginning of class, especially if I haven’t taught that class before, I let them know I am a Veteran who served in the Marine Corps and later as a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Officer. I let them know I proudly wore the Airborne Ranger patches on my uniform, and that I don’t tolerate a lack of discipline and respect in my classroom.

But then I also let them know I am a father of three, a grandfather of three, and that our classroom will be a place for helping one another develop both knowledge and wisdom – tools that will serve them well throughout life.  I provide tough love to my students, but through my substitute teacher “management by walking around” style, I get to know the students as best I can and assist them with their work.

While some teaching days are better than others, now that I have taught at almost all middle and high schools in Prince William County, hardly a day passes without students asking, “Mr. Anderson, are you teaching my class today?” Students routinely thank me for my service. And those whose parents or family members are active-duty members or Veterans, always let me know that right away as well – a small but powerful bonding moment.

Lastly, the students who challenge me with their bad behavior provide an opportunity to step into the hallway for some one-on-one counseling. Having grown up in a tough neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, arguably a war zone, I can appreciate the difficult situation many students have to deal with at home, in their neighborhood, and even at school. My personal talks with students seem to strike a chord in many of those acting out, and when I have break through moments with them, I can’t help but feel that it was worth getting up to teach that day.

While my substitute teaching may not be a direct activity of AVV per se, it is one way I foster the cause of current and future Veterans and perhaps make our community a better place for all of us. What can you do to help AVV and our local community today?