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“Not Something You Forget”: Iraq Veteran Terron Sims II Talks Community Organizing

President Obama recently announced new initiatives to help veterans get back to work. Over the next several days, we’ll be profiling veterans who are applying what they learned in the service to their work here at home.

When it came time for college, Terron Sims II only applied to one school: West Point.

“It wasn’t much of a decision,” says Sims. “In my family, we serve our country.”

The son of a retired Marine Corps colonel, Sims jokes that the closest he’s ever come to a permanent address was his P.O. box at West Point. Between his military and political activities, Sims isn’t much for staying put.

He was deployed to Iraq in 2003. Just three years out of college, Terron found himself playing the role of community organizer in one of the world’s most tumultuous regions. He calls the experience awe-inspiring, explaining:

“It’s rare that you’re able to be a part of something so much greater than yourself.”

The lessons he learned in Iraq play a huge role in his political work in the United States, he says.

While he was deployed, says Sims, “I established and mentored the government in Baghdad’s Tisa Nissan District, which is 182 square miles and has 1.25 million people. I spent much of my energy forwarding the cause and civil rights of Iraq’s women, growing and strengthening the democratic process, and enhancing Tisa Nissan’s municipality.”

When Sims returned to Virginia, he applied his organizing experience to become “politically active on every level” at home. The co-chair of Virginia Veterans for Obama, he is also president of the Northern Virginia Black Democrats, chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia’s Veterans and Military Family Caucus, and a member of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

In Iraq, he learned that “crossing cultures is easier than we think. People are people—no matter where we live or who we are, we all want to live our lives, care for our families, and achieve some measure of prosperity... It gave me perspective."

The camaraderie Sims experienced within his unit also carries over into his civilian life, where he mentors middle and high school students and helps make sure other veterans and their families have the support they need.

“You’re responsible for the lives of these men, for their lives and their well-being. That’s not something you forget,” he explains.

When asked why he supports President Obama, Sims doesn’t hesitate.

“I point to the President’s record, and I point to his ratings by the V.A. and other organizations. That’s all I’ve ever needed to do, is to stand there and tell people his record. It speaks for itself, whether you’re a veteran or a civilian.”

To learn more about the President’s proposed programs for veterans, read up on his speech at the Washington Navy Yard earlier this month.

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