By Annie Nelson
In my journey with our military and veteran communities, I have had the honor of befriending several amazing people. One of those men is former Army Lieutenant Colonel and US Congressmen Allen West. Lt Col West is such a wonderful man. He is a leader, speaker, author, former Congressmen and is now running for the position of head of the GOP (Republican Party) for the state of Texas.
Through Facetime we sat down and discussed a few topics to share. Mind you, it was just a few weeks ago that Lt Col West was in a terrible motorcycle accident going 75 mph. As an avid motorcyclist who has spent the last 35 years riding, he is truly a walking miracle today.
AN: After retiring from the Army was your transition difficult?
LCW: When I transitioned from the military to civilian life, it was a bit harder for me. We relocated to South Florida and I had to get plugged in to new surroundings, find veterans to connect with and get that veteran bond going. It’s easier if you retire and stay close to a military installation where you keep the bond of brotherhood/sisterhood. I think it’s so important for those of us who have served to stay plugged into our community after service. We support each other and have a bond like no other.
AN: How did you decide to run and win for Congress?
LCW: While living down in Florida, I was actually challenged by my friend, Donna, who said, “Just because you are not serving in the military does not mean you are done with your service to this country. You need to run for Congress and continue serving out of uniform.” So, it began. I feel it’s very important for veterans to run for office. We need veterans to lead this country! We took an oath and that is for life, so what better way to continue to serve once we are out of uniform.
AN: What was the biggest challenge serving in Congress?
LCW: The biggest challenge was knowing that the people you serve with do not necessarily follow the same values, ethics and integrity that you are used to in the military. That was the toughest part of the job and you never get used to it. It can be very enticing to be in Congress. Most look into the light and forget why they’re there and what they are supposed to be doing, which is representing the people. People head to Washington, DC as one person and, after being there a short time, become a typical politician.
AN: What was most rewarding in your years in Congress?
LCW: For me, there were rewarding times while serving when I was able to help veterans, look up their records, get awards given that were overlooked, etc. Truly helping my constituents out—that was the most rewarding part of the job.
AN: How do you feel about the current climate in the country?
LCW: I feel we are in an ideological war in this country today. We are a country ruled by law and order. Right now, we are being run by mob mentality and we must get a handle on it! We have not done a very good job with that. I like to use the analogy of the child throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. If you do not immediately discipline that child and demand that behavior to stop, you will always have a child throwing a tantrum.
AN: Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
LCW: Proverbs 3: 5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him. and he will make your paths straight.” That would have to be my answer. I was just in a motorcycle accident going 75 miles an hour. We are doing this interview just 3 short weeks later. Everyone that knows motorcycles knows with an accident going 75 mph I should be dead. I am a walking miracle. So, I will continue to follow His path for my life staying true to God, Country and the state of Texas.
AN: What advice would you share with men/women about to transition from their service?
LCW: I would say first and foremost that you must stay plugged in to the veteran community. If you stay local or move away, get connected with veterans in your community. We as older veterans need to do better as well as be mentors for our newly transitioned brothers and sisters. I truly feel this is the first line of defense in the suicide epidemic we are facing now. The bond of the military brotherhood/sisterhood is strong and one that must carry you through your life.
AN: Where is the best place for people to follow you and what you are up to?
LCW: My website of course ~ and we are on other social media as well:
Thank you to Lt Col West and thank you to anyone who has worn the uniform for our great USA!