May 28, 2021

San Diego Union-Tribune: Opinion--My grandpa served in the U.S. Army Air Forces. I keep fighting for the values he taught me.

Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, has represented San Diego’s North County in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2019, and serves on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He lives in San Juan Capistrano.

My grandpa, Ted Levin, served as a gunner with the 867th Bomb Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. He lost many friends during the war, and taught me that there is no higher calling than honoring the courage and bravery of our fallen heroes. On Memorial Day and every other day, I am deeply grateful for the service of American men and women around the world who have dedicated their lives to keeping our country safe and free.

More than 1 million American troops have given their lives on battlefields or in non-combat situations that are seared into our history. In February 2020, I had the honor of attending the 75th anniversary of the World War II battle of Iwo Jima that was held at Camp Pendleton. It was a reminder of so many places and times in which remarkable Americans sacrificed so much for each other. Before they went to war, these American heroes were first a son, or daughter, a spouse, a parent, a brother or sister, a neighbor or a friend. Nothing replaces the anguish of losing someone so special. Our fallen and missing in action will never be forgotten by a profoundly grateful nation.

Grandpa Ted passed away several years ago, but his influence is with me every day I serve in Congress. If he could, he’d remind me that I have a responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution, to vote soberly on legislation that could put our service members in harm’s way, to care for those who shall have borne the battle, and to prioritize public service for my constituents above all else.

I know Grandpa Ted would be disappointed by much about today’s politics. While he was a committed Democrat, he didn’t vilify his Republican friends and neighbors. He would have honest discussions about the issues of the day without resorting to name calling or conspiracy peddling.

Grandpa Ted loved our military but believed at times we’ve been too quick to send troops into conflicts without adequately accounting for the young lives we’re risking. He believed strongly in protecting and strengthening the the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system that served him well, rather than privatizing it. He believed, as I do, that no veteran should go without a job, a place to live, or enough to eat.

He’d want me to avoid partisanship for its own sake and focus on the core responsibilities of my job. And that’s what I’ve tried to do. As I’ve said often, my name may be on the door, but this office belongs to the people I serve — Republicans, Democrats, independents, and everyone else.

That’s why I’ve tried to remain as accessible and transparent as possible, and why I’ve held a public town hall at least once a month — so that any constituent can come and ask me any question they want.

I’ve also strived to provide the best possible constituent services. Any constituent can call our office and get one-on-one assistance with federal programs. We’ve been able to help dozens of veterans and military families get the benefits they have earned. We recently helped a constituent in Vista restore and increase his mother’s VA benefits. We helped another military family from Encinitas secure child care while one parent was deployed overseas and the other was a mission essential military member.

These may seem like small accomplishments — it’s certainly not the type of work that creates flashy headlines — but this is the type of public service my grandpa taught me to appreciate. We need fewer public servants focused on saying and doing the most outrageous thing to acquire fame. We need more who prioritize serving their constituents, protecting our Constitution, and looking out for the service members and veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country.

If we can get back to living the values they fought for — the values my grandpa taught me — our country will be a stronger and better place for all. That’s the country I’ll keep fighting for.

By:  Rep. Mike Levin
Source: San Diego Union-Tribune