After 20 years in the military organizing troops, Gloria Hamilton is now using her military training to get more involved in causes in her community – including the upcoming election.
The retired Army veteran was one of 10 vets from around the Southeast who recently participated in a one-of-a-kind, five-day training retreat in Atlanta organized by the Veterans Organizing Institute, the training arm of Common Defense, a 501(c)4 grassroots group of progressive veterans.
This year’s midterm is an “important election,” VOI training director Janice Jamison told Atlanta Civic Circle. “There’s so much misinformation that’s happening right now.”
Some, like Hamilton, have already served as leaders. After leaving the Army, she worked as the commander of a women’s veterans organization in Savannah, bringing public awareness to problems women vets face such as sexism, military sexual trauma and homelessness.
Others are new to community organizing, said Jamison, a former Air Force intelligence operations analyst. Veterans carry clout in communities, she added, which helps in collaborative teamwork efforts, such as community activism and voter outreach.
Jamison said the veterans’ goal is to help voters make well-informed decisions. “The Veterans Organizing Institute equips veterans to be like grassroots organizers and community activists. We’re nonpartisan. We don’t say vote Republican or vote Democrat. Just get out there.”
For Hamilton, it was the trip to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and discussions about the current political climate with nationally-known Emory University historian and civil rights activist Carol Anderson that reinvigorated her activism.
“Having the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Anderson was definitely a call to action for me,” Hamilton, a retired Sergeant First Class, told Atlanta Civic Circle. “It really got me fired up on the need to really stay in that fight. I wanted to put some more skills behind my organizing efforts.”
“Regardless of your political affiliation, [people] respect the fact that we raise our right hand in honor of serving this country,” Jamison said. “That level of respect that people have for veterans is just enough to get our foot in the door to have a conversation.”
“We’ve been doing this way too long to still be playing at this game. Action is really needed,” added Hamilton, who lives in Evans, outside of Augusta. “We need more soldiers on the battlefield, even if you’re just bringing water to the troops. We need to be in this fight for humanity altogether, but definitely for voters’ rights – especially here in Georgia.