President Kennedy once said: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” His words had a great impact on me, and I joined the U.S Marine Corps to serve my country. While serving I learned many things and was fortunate enough to never have been exposed to any wars. But I was honored to have been given the chance to represent the country that welcomed me and my Cuban family with open arms.
Fifty-two years later, Kennedy’s words continue to ring true within me. Our military men and women do it unselfishly and for the right to preserve our way of life for our children. Because of their sacrifices, we need to embrace our heroes and provide them with the essential tools needed for a better quality of life. I initiated legislation to create and establish the Military Affairs Board to assist them and their families.
This board’s commitment is to promote, attract and solicit military activities in Miami-Dade County, as well as advocate on behalf of military personnel on issues such as healthcare, housing, pension benefits, education, employment, unemployment benefits, disability claims, vocational training and insurance.
The 24 members of this board will make recommendations on all military affairs to the County Commission; work with other entities, such as federal and state agencies, to represent Miami-Dade’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 personnel serving in the Armed Forces around the world; will coordinate activities for various holidays; 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 we have accepted this mission and will be the voice for our service men and women.
I’ve met with many of them; unemployment, housing, health and welfare are all important challenges that they face when they return home. In Miami-Dade County we have 1,400 homeless veterans, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011 we had 4,160 unemployed veterans. Our focus is to find solutions and resources to make their lives easier and stress-free after all of their sacrifices.
Our diverse community continues to strive for unity of purpose and social harmony. Let’s 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.
Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Miami-Dade county commissioner and chair, Military Affairs Board, Miami