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VFW Magazine February 2018 : Page 24

VFW Washington Office Executive Director Bob Wallace (left) and National Legislative Service Director Carlos Fuentes discuss VFW’s 2018 Priority Goals. The close proximity to Capitol Hill enables NLS staff to build productive relationships with lawmakers and other decision makers. “We receive calls from veterans who are concerned and even fearful about veteran’s issues they are reading and hearing about in the news,” said Markel, who came to VFW in 2008. “To have someone say, ‘Thank you for talking to me. I will be able to sleep tonight,’ is a reminder that what we do impacts the quality of veterans lives.” VETERANS ‘AREN’T ALONE’ For Kayda Keleher, a Marine Corps vet who served in Afghanistan in 2011, tak-ing care of others is a top priority. “Some of the problems happening in veterans’ lives are really heart-wrench-ing stories that have a clearly negative impact on their lives,” said Keleher, also a member of Post 5627. “When we can tell them that they aren’t alone, and that we’re here in Washington fighting for them, hearing the sincere joy in their voices always brings a smile to my face and makes me proud.” Before coming to VFW in 2016, Keleher had volunteered at a business which aims to highlight art therapy for those who have PTSD and TBI. She also was a research coordinator at American University in Washington, D.C., working as the link between veter-ans and various studies. As an NLS associate director, Keleher testifies on behalf of VFW on matters such as VA health care and homeless benefits for veterans. She testified seven times in the past year alone. Keleher said her work as a Marine Corps combat correspondent in Afghanistan and her work prior to com-ing to VFW prepared her for Capitol Hill. “When I was deployed, I worked pri-marily with women and children in Afghanistan,” Keleher said. “Later, I worked as a refugee liaison for women refugees in Buffalo, N.Y. It was really rewarding work, much like my work here at VFW.” PHOTO BY LAUREN GOLDMAN/VFW NLS WORK ‘NEVER GETS OLD’ NLS Associate Director Ken Wiseman said he handles several duties for VFW. He is the in-house expert on issues relat-ing to toxic exposure, the VA budget and the congressional appropriations pro-cess, as well as rural veterans and their specific health care needs. He also manages VFW’s Action Corps, which is a grassroots communications tool with more than 300,000 members. A life member of Post 1503 in Dale City, Va., Wiseman is the lead staffer for the VFW-Student Veterans of America Legislative Fellowship (see sidebar on p. 26). Wiseman came to VFW after being a fellow in the first class in 2015. He also is the VFW Department of Virginia senior vice commander. “Working on toxic exposure issues like Agent Orange, burn pits and Gulf War Syndrome is most rewarding,” said Wiseman, who earned his VFW eligibil-ity aboard the USS Samuel B. Roberts off South America. “Because of my specific duties while in the Navy, I am able to talk about these issues from the scientific aspect as well as the need for policy change.” Wiseman is no stranger to testifying or holding press events on the steps of Capitol Hill to make sure VFW’s voice is heard. Last July, he spoke in support of a con-gressional amendment that would declas-sify portions of a Vietnam-era project that VFW WASHINGTON OFFICE VFW National Legislative Service Associate Director Patrick Murray speaks during a round table meeting in July at VFW’s Washington Office on Capitol Hill. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Forever GI Bill. At right is Will Hubbard with Student Veterans of America. 24 • VFW  • FEBRUARY 2018

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