By: Jose “Pepe” Diaz
Miami-Dade County Commissioner, District 12, Miami-Dade County Military Liaison and Chairman of the Military Affairs Board
President John F. Kennedy once said “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. When I was in my late teen’s his words made a great impact in my life. I joined the United States Marine Corps to serve my country and served proudly until I was honorably discharged. While serving in the Marine Corps, I learned many things and was fortunate enough to never have been exposed to any wars but was honored to have been given the chance to represent my country – a country that welcomed me and my Cuban family with open arms.
Fifty-two years later, John F. Kennedy’s words continue to ring true within me. I know our military men and women, who serve, do it unselfishly and for the right to preserve our way of life for our children. Due to their sacrifices to this great country, I feel that as a community we need to embrace our heroes and provide them with the essential tools they need for a better quality of life after serving in the United States Armed Forces. For this reason, I initiated legislation to create and establish the Military Affairs Board, to assist them and their families.
This board’s commitment will promote, attract and solicit military activities in Miami-Dade County, as well as advocate on behalf of military personnel on issues like health care, housing loans, pension benefits, education, employment, unemployment benefits, disability claims, vocational training and insurance. Among their duties, the 24 members of this Board will make recommendations on all military affairs in Miami-Dade County to the Board of County Commissioners; will work with other entities, such as federal and state agencies, to represent Miami-Dade County’s interests by ensuring that local military bases remain open as part of the next BRAC round potentially scheduled for 2015; will increase awareness and support for our military personnel serving in the Armed Forces around the world; will coordinate activities for Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day; and will administer the Medal of Valor program- Miami-Dade County’s highest honor to veterans or their surviving family members.
This board’s mission will not be easy but I can tell you that the board members and I, as the Chairman, have accepted this mission and will be the voice for our service men and women. I have met with many of them and the reality is that unemployment, housing, health and welfare are all important factors that each of our men and women face when they return from serving our country. In Miami-Dade County alone, we currently have 1400 homeless veterans and according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011 we had 4,160 unemployed veterans. This is just a few issues our brave men and women must deal with when they return from serving. Our focus is to find solutions and resources to make their life easier and stress-free after all their sacrifices, as well as assure them their commitment to this great country is not in vain!
Our diverse Miami-Dade County community continues to strive for unity of purpose and social harmony. Let us all stand together for those that stand for us with pride and courage, in areas of conflict around the world as well as in our homeland! The care and involvement of each of us can and will make a difference. I encourage you all to get involved and participate in the diverse programs and events throughout our community, like one of the upcoming events the Military Affairs Board is currently contributing to- the “Wings Over Homestead” Air Show, which will take place the weekend of November 3rd and 4th at the Homestead Air Force Base. I invite you to take part of this FREE family event open to the public and to show continued support for our service men and women of Miami Dade County.
For more information visit www.wingsoverhomestead.com