On May 20, Beto O’Rourke visited Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8790 in Houston to hold the first in a series of town halls focusing on the plights of veterans in Texas and how to address the systemic issues facing them.
Prior to O’Rourke’s speech to the attendees, he was introduced by state Representative Gene Wu as well as Rosie Lopez Torres, executive director of the veterans organization Burn Pits 360.
During his address to the crowd, O’Rourke detailed his long-standing commitment to helping veterans since he discovered the extent of their VA healthcare struggles during his first run for Congress in 2012. He then explained his impactful role as a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, unpopular with most congressional leaders due to its lack of proximity to big money interests but which O’Rourke praised as “one of the last bastions of bipartisanship in a very divided country.”
The gubernatorial candidate then detailed how as governor he would help Texas veterans through measures like marijuana legalization and housing initiatives, both problems disproportionately affecting the veteran community.
Following his speech, O’Rourke took a number of questions from veterans in the audience. The question topics covered a number of veteran-specific concerns that normally do not come up in discussions regarding veteran support. These subject matters included VA medical staff accountability, female healthcare needs, and supporting veteran businesses and entrepreneurship.
O’Rourke also used a question from town hall attendee state Representative Ann Johnson to lay into Governor Greg Abbott for his irresponsible use of Texas National Guard members for his wasteful Operation Lone Star, the tedium and ineffectiveness of which is draining members’ morale to such an extent as to severely impact their long-term mental health and even drive some to suicide.
Following his trip to Houston, Beto continued his veterans’ town hall tour to spread his message through visits to San Antonio, San Angelo, Abilene, Wichita Falls, and Killeen.
Original photo: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons