Aren’t Veterans Worth as Much as Artists?

Mayor de Blasio giving his State of the City speech. Photo from the New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/04/nyregion/mayor-bill-de-blasio-state-of-the-city.html?_r=0

Mayor de Blasio giving his State of the City speech. Photo from the New York Times.

I think it’s great that Mayor de Blasio plans to create 1,500 new affordable live-work spaces for artists in NYC within the next decade. Artists are vital to our cultural fabric and artists are a key component of what makes NYC the best City to live in. I take no issue with this.

But.

I would have been even more thrilled to hear an announcement to create just as many affordable live-work spaces for veterans. Hear me out. I mean, I read this touching article about an artist who stands to benefit from de Blasio’s announcement, so I’ll see if I can explain my position here in half as many words.

There are many of us who were deployed, many of us multiple times, since 2001. We volunteered to serve while a bunch of folks stayed home, nourished their careers, climbed the ladder, and so on. I myself deployed twice to Afghanistan (my first deployment was while I was on active duty, my second and third while in the National Guard) while holding the best job of my career, and, while I was appreciative of the kind people I worked for and with, I nevertheless fell behind, and it hurt. My promotion and pay raise took forever, while my peers advanced ahead of me–and not for lack of my contributions while I was in the office or overseas. I mention this because I know I’m not the only veteran or reservist to experience this.

Other veterans I know have struggled to find jobs even remotely on par with what their jobs and level of expertise were in the military, and more than a decade later, we have an educational system, civilian professional credentialing systems, and civilian employers that still have no idea how to bring in and use the incredible skillsets and rich experiences of veterans recently returned home. We’re a resilient bunch, and we’re busy succeeding despite all this. You’ll hear few complaints. But note that this has been happening, and continues to happen to this day. Veterans served in America’s wars, America went on without us, and we continue to shoulder the burden of fitting back in and moving forward.

Given all this, it would be great if someone in government like Bill de Blasio would find veterans as worthwhile an investment as artists.

Statistics show that veterans are more entrepreneurial than our civilian counterparts. We arrive home to our communities with more leadership experience than the average American. We’re highly inclined toward serving and volunteering in our communities. A bunch of us have gotten involved as social entrepreneurs and leaders in nonprofits. We’re even busy creating art that transforms our wartime experiences into literature, dance, music, visual art, and more. In short: we’ve sacrificed getting ahead in recent years to serve in America’s wars so others didn’t have to–and we’re going to give our best as citizens now that we’re coming home. Affordable housing and workspace for veterans could be a tremendous boost for us in our ongoing efforts. The value would be repaid many times over in the years to come.

Don’t get me wrong: artists are worth a lot to me. But veteran artists are also worth an awful lot to me, as are veteran entrepreneurs and veteran leaders in so many nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Aren’t veterans worth the investment, too?

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