As the last American troops head home from Iraq, Marianne, a retired teacher in New York, is thinking about her students.
"To me, approaching the end of the war means that my students aren't going off to die in harm's way. I've already lost two students in Iraq and had to comfort younger siblings after their deaths. I had former students who were deployed overseas with the Marines. I hope I will get to see them come home safe and sound to join their families."
The next step, says Marianne, is to continue supporting veterans when they return.
"I'm delighted we're bringing them home, but we need to make sure they have jobs when they get here. I'm very worried about that, as we all should be. Our veterans are some of the bravest people in this country—they're out there protecting us, doing a job many people don't want to do, and we owe them more than gratitude once they're home. We need to keep pushing for that."
While she works to spread the word about the need for Congress to level the playing field for all Americans, including returning servicemembers and military families, Marianne draws on her experience in the civil rights movement.
"Standing up for progress isn't new for me," she explains. "I was a Freedom Rider, I was active in the women's movement, the gay rights movement, the antiwar protests, you name it. I remember crying my eyes out when President Obama was elected because it was such a dream come true for all of us. So we have to keep doing now what we did then. We have to get involved, because one person stepping up can push another person to get involved, and they can encourage two more people, and on and on. It's like being on a bus—you see someone who has a radio playing too loudly, and you can all sit there and say nothing and just get angrier and angrier. But if one person says, 'Turn it down, please,' then everyone else says, 'Yeah, come on,' and guess what? They turn it down.
"That's what I'm hoping for, and it's why we need to re-elect President Obama. He keeps his promises, and he listens to us. We need more of a level playing field, with jobs for everybody who wants one. Something has to be done about that—we need to bring attention to that problem because that's the way it works. It worked in the 1960s—we showed that rights had to be fought for, and then what happens is politics change. They change to fit what the people want, but you have to keep moving forward at the same time as you're looking back. You can't just sit on your rear end and hope for the best."
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