Coming from a family of six, I knew I would want a big family of my own. I was inspired by my mother, who raised us all herself, to strive and provide for all of my family’s needs. I had my first-born at 18 and have been working hard ever since. As time goes on, I find it harder and harder to provide for my family. Rent isn’t affordable, quality childcare is difficult to find and teachers aren’t getting the support they need to educate effectively. I’d like to see an Oregon where families don’t have to worry about houselessness, unemployment, lack of access to quality childcare, and have the educational support they need to raise the next generation of leaders.
Joining the United States Army and deploying to Iraq was one the best yet most difficult decisions of my life. I was honored to serve our country and humbled to experience what’s happening across the globe, but at a steep cost. The battle didn’t end when I came home from overseas. I had to learn to improvise, adapt and overcome a divorce, addiction, incarceration and houselessness. All this while struggling with the repercussions of a combat tour and the lack or services for our veterans when they return. That is why I am so passionate about making sure our troops have the support they need so they never have to experience what I went through, but I can’t do it alone. We must fight for those who have and continue to fight for us.
Spending my younger years on a farm in Bonanza, Oregon, I developed a deep regard for the outdoors. I spent my summers logging on BLM land and harvesting Alfalfa and during the winter I burned slash piles and delivered firewood. As an adult, I moved north and worked doing reforestation after fires and farming in St.Paul using the same skills that I developed in my childhood. Growing up in an environment where I continuously interacted with nature created a strong sense of responsibility for taking care of our planet the way it cares for us. On weekends I take my kids fishing and teach them to have the same regard and responsibility for the environment as I did growing up.
Coming home after combat is sadly a lot like being released from prison. You’re kicked out with little support, a bag full of belongings and a DD214. Eventually, it costs hundreds of dollars a day in tax payer funds when individuals cycle in and out of custody due to a failed reintegration process. If we only invested in reintegration programs we could be earning that income versus spending it. Who better to advocate for such a proactive change than someone who’s experienced the pros and cons of reintegration from two different perspectives. After my deployment, I used marijuana and alcohol to cope with my traumas. I then served 2 years in prison (no good time, no work time) for marijuana . I struggled for years after in getting back on my feet but the only thing that worked was a Justice Reinvestment program with a housing first model. If you didn’t believe in reform, I’m proof that it works. For those who have made mistakes and those who served our country carrying hidden wounds.
Looking back, I can pinpoint when my recovery from combat started. The day I discovered Peer Support. Having that access to mental health services is life changing and having a peer that’s been there to say they understand is life saving. In a state where our two highest suicide populations are veterans and youth, we should be asking those who know what works because they’ve been there. Youth, Veterans and Oregonians need a representative who will listen with empathy on what they need for student success, Veterans services and healthcare for all.