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Brand New Congress just scored our first big win of 2022!
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick won the special election to represent FL-20, and she’s headed to Congress immediately to join BNC Reps. Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Rashida Tlaib, and AOC.

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This Veterans Day, Don’t Just Thank Us,
Fight Alongside Us for Change

By Brittany Ramos DeBarros BNC 2022, Candidate for Congress, NY-11

Note: This is a repost of Brittany’s OpEd published by the Staten Island Advance on 11-11-2021.

When I returned from a year-long Army combat deployment in Afghanistan, I landed in Staten Island and it has been my chosen home ever since. Tad, my then boyfriend, now husband, had already moved to New York for an accounting job and after months of his faithful letters, care packages and support, I agreed to join him here when I redeployed. We chose our first apartment together here in Staten, fell in love with this island, and eventually bought our first home down the street thanks to help from a Veterans Affairs (VA) loan.

I’ve been home for almost a decade now and Veterans Day still brings a flood of painful memories and complex emotions. Every year there are parades, festivities and politicians posing for photos. And every year, as we’re trotted out like props by both political parties, I wonder how many more Veterans have been created by endless, expensive wars, and how many more of us have died at home lacking adequate care and support that some claim is “too expensive.”

Please don’t misunderstand me, the acknowledgement is important and I’m incredibly grateful for the services and resources I do have access to as a Veteran that many others don’t have.


 When I was getting on my feet post-deployment, I was able to enjoy a free steak dinner at Charlie Brown’s with my husband every Veterans Day and it was a blessing to us. My point is that recent surveys estimate that at least 90,000 active duty military families face hunger on any given day. An estimated additional 20,000 military families rely on SNAP benefits to eat and make ends meet. Hunger Action Network of New York State estimates that almost 3 million Veterans and their families face hunger. This is before we talk about unemployment, poverty, housing and more.

Year after year, Members of Congress from both parties have voted for the military budget knowing that nearly half of it goes to corporations while active troops, especially lower-enlisted, are paid such a pittance that they struggle to feed their families. In turn, those Defense corporations pour millions into lobbying and campaign contributions to ensure our tax dollars keep making them richer. We should call that what it is: corruption. 

How many of the politicians who will tweet about us, pose with us, and claim they support us on Veterans Day will turn around and vote against public healthcare, housing assistance, SNAP benefits, paid family leave, cannabis decriminalization, and more that would be life-changing for us? We should call that what it is: hypocrisy.

" when I came home from war I was traumatized and in shock. I didn’t need pats on the back, I needed care and investment. "

-Brittany Ramos DeBarros

Right here in Staten Island we have over 10 percent of the NYC veteran population, despite making up only about five percent of the population of the city, but most of us have to travel to Brooklyn or Manhattan to access VA appointments because our facility here is so underfunded.  I’m so grateful I received mental health care here in Staten Island through a non-profit because there’s no way I could have kept up with appointments all over the city while struggling to adjust back to civilian life and hold down a job. We have one of the highest Vietnam Veteran populations in the country here and many of them live on fixed incomes but pay NYC’s highest bridge toll multiple times a week to go to their appointments in Brooklyn. To add insult to injury, Veterans in Staten Island receive far less in Basic Housing Assistance than their counterparts in other boroughs despite these additional expenses and access barriers.

It took me a while to realize it, but when I came home from war I was traumatized and in shock. I didn’t need pats on the back, I needed care and investment. In the years to follow, as the war continued, my wounds would be ripped open again and again.

 I didn’t need pats on the back, I needed care and investment. In the years to follow, as the war continued, my wounds would be ripped open again and again. Standing in a bar, ears ringing, seeing breaking news we had bombed the hospital in Kunduz where so many Afghans and volunteers I met there had worked. The utter devastation I felt reading the Afghanistan Papers in the Washington Post, proof that military and elected officials had been knowingly lying to us about the war. Listening to new, teenage troops assigned to my Detachment saying they “couldn’t wait to deploy,” knowing they didn’t fully grasp what they would be a part of. Watching whistleblowers go to prison for proving 9 out of 10 people killed by our drones were unintended targets, like the family we killed on the heels of our withdrawal, while none of the leaders responsible faced any repercussions.



In order to heal, many of us don’t need accolades, we need accountability for the lies that led to our moral injury and the corrupt profiteering that continues to flourish at our expense. We need investment in jobs, care and infrastructure that help our families and our communities thrive. And we need real change. No more reckless, destabilizing wars that increase national security threats and decrease military readiness. And no more members of Congress who lack the courage and conviction to address waste, fraud, and abuse.

There are incredible individuals and organizations working hard to meet needs every day, but still, military members, families and Veterans are needlessly suffering. If enough of us come together, we can change that. Please, this Veterans Day, don’t just thank us and move on. Commit to fight alongside us to ensure no one goes hungry, and everyone has access to a good home, a good job, and the care they need. Fight alongside us for change.

 

About the Author: Brittany Ramos DeBarros is a combat veteran and community organizer running to represent NY-11, serving Staten Island. Follow Brittany on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

Want to get involved? You can help Brand New Congress get Brittany elected with a split contribution here

And sign up to volunteer with Brand New Congress and Brittany’s campaign.

 

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This Veterans Day, Don’t Just Thank Us, Fight Alongside Us for Change

A mother’s endless heartbreak,
and the world we have to change.

Marsha WIlliams

Marsha WIlliams

Marsha Williams is a Brand New Congress candidate for U.S. House district IL-17. She is a working class mother of three and a fierce advocate for reproductive freedoms.

My son Carl would have turned 15 years old today.

 

I should be taking him to get his learner’s permit and teaching him how to drive. He should be driving me bonkers by being too loud with his friends and playing video games past his bedtime.

 

But I never got that chance, because 15 years ago today, I lost my son 12 days before my scheduled C-Section.

 

This is the hardest story I’ve ever had to tell, but it’s an important message, and I hope you will stay with me to the end so we can prevent what happened to me and my son from happening to anyone else.

 

On the morning of March 14th, 2007, I was at my weekly obstetric check-up. I was due to give birth within a couple weeks, but something went wrong that day.

 

The nurse couldn’t detect Carl’s heartbeat. For several minutes she flustered and fiddled with different equipment, trying to find a machine that worked. My first inkling that something was wrong was when the doctor suddenly pulled me in for an ultrasound.

 

My doctor told me to go to the hospital immediately. Believing that Carl’s life was in imminent danger, and that I was about to be rushed into the delivery room, we quickly arranged a babysitter for my daughter and went straight to the ER.

 

But instead of rushing me into treatment, the ER staff stalled me for five grueling hours before forcing me to get a second ultrasound to confirm what they, and my doctor, already knew. My son was dead – caused by true knots in my umbilical cord.

 

Little did I know, that was just the beginning of my long nightmare.

 

First, my doctor strolled into the room hours after my 2nd ultrasound and casually broke the news. Worse, he blamed me, claiming “this only  happens late-term when the mother does something wrong.”

 

My fault.

 

I was still reeling from the shocking news, trying to process what was happening, and without knowing anything more, my doctor told me this was my fault.

 

Two weeks earlier I had urged my doctor to deliver Carl early because I could tell something wasn’t right. He wasn’t kicking as much as he had been, and something just felt wrong. He dismissed me and insisted I was fine, saying, “Pregnant women worry all the time.”

 

Now, I was in the hospital and my nightmare had come true.

 

That same doctor who wrote off my fears while my son was still alive now gave me two options: I could remain pregnant and continue carrying my son while his body decomposed in my womb, putting me at significant risk of death, or they could perform a C-Section and remove my deceased son immediately.

 

My choice was obvious. I asked for the C-Section, but my doctor inexplicably dismissed me again. Despite having just detailed what would be an extremely graphic death if they didn’t remove the fetus, he told me “No, you’re not thinking rationally. Let’s just wait.”

 

The conservative Catholic hospital, St. Joseph’s in Joliet, IL, then sent three nurses and a priest to talk to me. All of them pressured me to continue carrying my deceased son, urging that this was what “God had intended.”

 

In a fit of despair and disbelief, I began to question them. What if their tests were wrong? What if my son actually WAS still alive and they were putting his life at risk by denying me a C-Section?

 

Only then, when I suggested my son might still be alive, did they agree to take me into the operating room – not when it was clear that my life was in danger.

 

The nightmare continued after the procedure was done. The hospital priest told me that my son wouldn’t be allowed to go to heaven because he hadn’t been baptized.

 

They made me take a drug test to determine if illicit drug use was to blame for my son’s death – ignoring the natural and common phenomenon of true knots that were clearly to blame.

 

In the months that followed, I joined pregnancy loss support groups and learned that many, many other women had been subjected to the same cruel treatment. One woman I met was actually arrested for homicide because doctors believed her to be responsible for her miscarriage.

 

Imagine grieving the loss of your child, your body recovering from a traumatic failed pregnancy – and then being arrested and accused of murder.

 

It’s been 15 years since I lost my son. I am still, and always will be, his mother. And I still grieve for him.

The pain feels as fresh today as it did 15 years ago – and all of it was preventable.

If my doctor had listened to me two weeks earlier, it’s likely my son would still be alive today.

I had to beg them for a late-term abortion that day. If I hadn’t been able to convince them, it’s very likely that I would NOT be alive today.

Why should I have to beg for life-saving medical care? How many other women have been forced into this position and lost their lives as a result?

 

The United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world – in fact, American women die in childbirth at twice the rate of our peer countries. And women of color are most affected.

Even 15 years after my horrifying nightmare, women are still dying of preventable conditions because doctors won’t listen to us and women like me are coerced into suffering in silence.

Well, I won’t be silent anymore. I have to be a voice not only for the women like me who were subjected to physical and emotional trauma, but the women who didn’t make it and aren’t here to be heard anymore.

I’m running for Congress because abortion is healthcare, and healthcare is a human right. I refuse to stand by and let men like Joe Manchin deny life-saving healthcare to women like me.

I won’t allow radical right-wingers like Marjorie Taylor Greene or my GOP opponent, Esther Joy King, moralize and grandstand at the expense of lives like mine. I’m running for Congress to fight for our rights – to abortion care, to healthcare, to housing, to living wages. Our very right to liveI do it for Carl, and for my two living children. And I will never stop fighting to make the world a better place for them.

Marsha Williams is a Brand New Congress candidate running for U.S. House in the open seat of IL-17. We share her heart wrenching story with you to highlight what is at risk with the unprecedented attack on the rights of pregnant people. Marsha is a fierce advocate for reproductive rights and the only candidate in her race running on universal healthcare, strengthening unions, and the Green New Deal. If you would like to help Marsha get elected, please consider a split contribution with her campaign here.