Allow me to introduce myself

 

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

My name is Ramiro Navarro Jr. but call me “R.J.” for short. I’m the proud son of a migrant Farm Worker and a Tejana School Teacher. I’m an Oregonian born and raised and have lived in Keizer most my life. I was a 63B, Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic, in the Army for 3 years. Did one deployment to Talil, Iraq in 2009 and experienced the traumas of combat for many years after. When I decided to return to school in 2013 for Business Management, I worked at Chemeketa Community College as the Veterans Representative on the Student Council. I took an opportunity to gain business management training and with that certification I hoped to run my own farm. More specifically, a farm similar to the one I worked on as a youth in Bonanza, Oregon. I gained employment to experience first-hand the different aspects of farming that I was unfamiliar with and quickly worked my way up the ranks to a management position. From planting and maintenance to harvesting and canning, I enjoyed working the different aspects of the farming industry in Salem, Albany, Keizer, St. Paul, McMinnville and Newberg for years. Raising 2 toddlers I became a metal fabricator so I could stay closer to home. Still volunteering here and there I was recognized for my work in the community and offered a position as the Veterans Program Coordinator at Project ABLE where I continue to work today.

Advocating for Veterans

The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

— General Douglas MacArthur

Since first attending college, I’ve been a voice that veterans can depend on.

My first year at Chemeketa I was promoted to the position of President of the Veterans Club, hired on as Veterans Representative and organized many events to raise funds for the Veterans Lounge and other events on campus.

Why do I do this?

  • Experiencing first-hand the traumas of combat and reintegration, I want to make access to services easier.
  • As an Honorably Discharged veteran, I’m aware of the resources available but also the difficulties in navigating them.
  • I’ve felt the pain my fellow service-members feel. I’ve struggled with them, I’ve endured with them and I’d like to be there with them as they were there for me.

Struggling with mental health, addiction, divorce, recidivism, homelessness and unemployment are all very real consequences of deploying to a combat zone. I should know. What I’ve noticed though is how some have consistently failed our veterans with policies that weren’t written by veterans with lived experience but in a manner to line pockets. I’d like to put a stop frivolous spending and make sure we fund evidence-based supports our veterans.

Here’s are a few questions to ask in hopes of understanding what’s going on:

  • Who’s more qualified to speak on military trauma? Civilians with a mental health degree or the veterans who’ve experienced it?
  • Who knows what’s best for veterans? A case manager or the veterans themselves?
  • Who could best advocate for veteran homelessness and mental health solutions? Organizations who want become a “one stop shop” or the veterans?

If your answer was the veterans for all three questions, then you are CORRECT! Unfortunately this is the world that I fight against everyday. Mental health professional telling veterans how they should feel, case managers telling veterans what’s best and organizations/contractors/landlords doing what they can to make every penny they can off our most vulnerable with absolutely no empathy.

I’m blessed work in a field that truly understands people struggling with trauma. But I can only do so much from my current position and it’d be my honor to do so much more as your representative. Thank you for your time, your support and your contributions. Hopefully we can do more work together to give our veterans the better quality of life that they deserve.