Readers Write: Serving those who served

Readers Write: Serving those who served
Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey speaks with Maj. Lance Jensen (Ret.) and fellow Veteran SGT Angwang

Diplomacy is required, now more than ever, from international conflicts to civility amongst our neighbors.  The most logical place to start is on the local level, working with our elected officials in a civil forum to discuss our needs as a community.

Recently, I returned to speak with Veterans in the Town of North Hempstead since prior to the pandemic.

Each time, Councilmember Veronica Lurvey invited me in an effort to build connections within the Veterans’ community and among elected officials.

She is keenly aware of the information and services gap between the government and Veterans and hopes to bridge that gap by listening to our concerns and building relationships.

The theme of our talk was Military and Diplomacy, where I had the chance to reflect on my service in the U.S. Army for over 30 years and in my recent role as a Department of Defense Civilian.

My military career has spanned a wide range of assignments, from combatting the War on Drugs in Central and South America to fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan immediately after 9/11 and Al Shabaab in Somalia.

As a civilian, I served as the director of the International Training Branch, 7th Army Training Command in Germany, where I oversaw the train and equip program for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Currently, I am the program manager of Security Assistance for the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Spain.

In each of these posts, I worked closely with local leaders to secure information for operational requirements and most of all negotiate for peace. Diplomatic skills have been valuable skills throughout my assignments and my life.

Skills not all that different than those required of a community leader and shown by Lurvey in how she organized the event.

Veterans and their family members had a chance not just to listen to me or elected officials speak, but more important to ask questions and mingle, to share and connect.

During that time, I was not surprised to learn about the disconnect that local Veterans and their families face from our government and the concerns that surfaced during the open discussion.

Several points stood out, including the convoluted veteran’s tax exemption policy in New York and how the town offices should help Veterans and family members navigate through the bureaucracy.

Unlike many other states, New York’s veteran entitlements are fragmented and left to individual municipalities to determine what, if any, entitlements veterans receive.

Another matter surfaced, under Supervisor DeSena the community’s 4000+ veterans lost access to the mobile health clinic that provided assistance for those who have difficulty traveling to the Northport VA.

Previously, it was established by former Supervisor Judi Bosworth who also created a veteran’s advisory committee to listen to and act on the concerns of our community. Through that connection, Bosworth, a true community diplomat, accomplished so much.

Unfortunately, DeSena did not stay to engage with the Veterans and their family members and hear these concerns.

The only time she gave was at the start of the event when shook my hand and said “thank you for your service.”  While I appreciate the acknowledgment, a true “thank you” to all Veterans begins with truly engaging on the issues that are of importance to us and our families.

This includes staying to listen, leveraging the Veterans’ Advisory Committee, and bringing back the mobile health unit.  Further, sponsoring more events for Veterans and their families, along with organization leaders of VFW, American Legion and other veteran groups to discuss and address their needs.

That is what service to the nation is all about.

Diplomacy requires one thing more than anything else: listening.  Without convening meetings and advisory boards to understand one another, there is no way we can make progress at home or abroad.

On the battlefield and around the world, Soldiers work hard to protect those that cannot protect themselves.  It is at home, where those Soldiers and Veterans need civilians to help to protect our lives.

Maj. Lance Jensen (Ret.)

Life Member Special Forces Association, Chapter 19, NJ/PA/NY

Life Member Veterans of Foreign Wars

Life Member American Legion

Life Member AUSA

Program Manager of Security Assistance for the Office of Defense Cooperation at the US Embassy in Spain

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