By P.C. Staff
The Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE) launched a Veterans Initiative Program on Oct. 13 that is dedicated to post-9/11 active service members and veterans. The flagship program hopes to inspire fellows to continue pursuing public service opportunities outside of the military.
“Many people scratch their heads when we first announced the initiative,” CAUSE Executive Director Kim Yamasaki admitted at the program’s kick off event last month. “But let me tell you that there is no program that aligns with CAUSE’s vision on veteran’s initiative.”
CAUSE is nonprofit, nonpartisan, community-based organization located in Pasadena, Calif. Its mission is to advance the political empowerment of the Asian Pacific American community.
Indeed, the program specifically targeted veterans and service members between the ages of 18-28, addressing a post-9/11 generation. Fellows were accepted into the program after a thorough application process based on their interest in seeking community leadership roles outside of the military. The program was designed for individuals interested in increasing the accessibility to and bring awareness of veteran resources as well as advocating on behalf of the Asian Pacific American veteran community.
According to a special report prepared in 2013 by the National Center of Veterans Analysis and Statistics, Asian veterans had the lowest percentage of using VA health care. During the kickoff, Yamasaki shared with the audience “that surveys show that over 50 percent of veterans are not aware of how to access or apply for these services.” Today, the government offers a wide range of programs, resources and benefits ranging from education to healthcare to employment.
“We launched this program for committed young people helping our community to connect with political and corporate leaders,” said CAUSE Board Chair Charlie Woo. “This leadership guidance is to ensure a path of success, and we ask the next generation of leaders to be the connection and bring awareness about the resources and support programs. That way we become more enthusiastic and comfortable with a
generation in military service.”
From the 2010 National Survey of Veterans, a total of 1.5 percent of veterans were AAPI compared to .4 percent more than a decade ago.
In an article published in the American Journal of Public Health, authors Jack Tsai, Julia Whealin and Robert Pietrzak found that AAPI veterans reported higher socioeconomic status and better mental health but found no difference in health service use or perceived barriers or stigma related to mental health services.
The article concluded that while AAPIs are a small group of veterans, they are the fastest-growing racial and minority group needing attention, suggesting that greater outreach should be encouraged.
For organizations like CAUSE, this growing need strikes at the core of the Veterans Initiative Program’s mission.
Over the next nine months, fellows will be provided with valuable tools and resources to enhance CAUSE’s program mission. This is the program’s first year, and the first class includes Corp. Henry Chan, United States Marine Corps; Jonathan Kim, Active Duty Ensign, United States Army; and Lt. Reservist Wen Lin, United States Navy. The three young men will undergo professional development training as well as issue and policy briefings.
A Veteran Resources Fair for APA service members and their families will be held sometime in 2016 to later showcase the fellows’ work and ideas.
Congressmember Ted Lieu (CA-33), who was announced as one of the mentors for the initiative, is looking to help fellows in their leadership development.
“I’m honored to be here on the ground floor as CAUSE launches this,” Lieu said. “Hopefully, we will have this program for many years.”
Lieu went on encourage fellows to look for ways to improve veteran suicide prevention efforts, combat homelessness and increase employment rates for returning servicemembers.
Honored guests included Congressmember Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, Director of Community Relations of the Southern California Gas Company Neena Master, City of Los Alamitos Councilmember Warren Kusumoto, Los Angeles Community College District Trustee Mike Fong, Garvey School District Board President Henry Lo, San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District Boardmember Thomas Wong and Los Angeles Community College District Personal Commissioner David Iwata.
Brig. Gen. Mark Toy, South Pacific Division Commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers, closed the program with a keynote speech. Toy encouraged the first fellow class of the program to “be the leader you wish you always had. If you do that, you can’t go wrong.”
In his remarks, Toy also shared his thoughts on passion, seeking mentorship, championing diversity of thought, engaging others, developing relationships and being humble, as well as gave insight into his own career path and personal experience, highlighting the key ingredients for success and community development.
In closing, Yamasaki concluded, “I am absolutely humbled that even after and during their military careers, our fellows still continue to aspire to hold civic leadership roles outside of the military. Today, we not only thank our fellows for their public service but for their continued public service.”