Former Ranger running for Congress says "A wave of change is coming"

Phil Briggs
October 01, 2018 - 12:14 pm


Talk to former Army Ranger Jesse Colvin about why he’s running for Congress in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, and he doesn’t beat around the bush, “One of the reasons I think there are so many veterans running for office is that we think the ‘My way or the highway’ type of leaders in both Iraq and Afghanistan got people killed, got fired or both … My platform is about common sense leadership and putting country above party.”

Colvin, a fourth generation Marylander, explains a philosophy shared by 9/11 veterans from both parties, “One of the reasons I think there are so many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans running is that we volunteered with no exit strategy. Many of us lost friends and colleagues there, many of us have lost friends and colleagues since we came home to things like post-traumatic stress … which is why I’m really excited there is a young wave of veteran candidates that want to put country over party because we know we need a new generation of leadership.”

Running as a Democrat, Colvin says the current class of veteran candidates will be different, “You come home and see these career politicians who are not only okay with the fray of talking heads just screaming at each other on cable news, but they actually want that status quo- because they benefit from that status quo. So there’s a couple of groups out there, one is With Honor, and they’re endorsing military vets, Noah’s Ark style … they endorse a Democrat and they bring aboard a Republican and vice versa.”

Colvin describes how this year’s veteran candidates offer “a glimmer of hope” that the hyper-partisanship in Congress will be changing this year. Backed by the organization With Honor- a political action committee with the mission of electing next-generation veterans to create a less polarized government, Colvin talks about a pledge they sign, “It’s things like once a month  you’ll get coffee with someone from the other side of the aisle, you’ll co-sponsor pieces of legislation together … the idea is that when party bosses want everyone to vote down party lines, they’re counting on us to come to town, speak truth to power and say no.  You can put us in a room, and we will come out with a bipartisan bill.”

Working together is certainly something Colvin experienced throughout his life. When the attacks of September 11th happened Colvin was 17 years old. "I decided to go to college and was absolutely determined to understand the roots of the 9/11 attacks,” he recalls.  "But my journey was kind of off the beaten path." After graduating from Duke University in 2006, Colvin lived in Syria and taught English to Iraqi refugees and Syrians. "My students detested the Bush administration but some of them had served as interpreters for our men and women on the ground … so as much as they detested the folks in the White House, our men and women on the ground they held in really high esteem and that had a huge impact on me, which is why I came home and joined the military.” 

Equipped with first-hand knowledge of Iraqi culture, Colvin joined the Army, where he became an intelligence officer with the 75th Ranger Regiment and completed four combat deployments to Afghanistan.  He was also forward-stationed near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in South Korea as the sole intelligence officer for an infantry unit. "I am a proud graduate of the US Army’s Ranger Course, the premier leadership school in the military.  I am even more honored to have served in the 75th Ranger Regiment – the Army Rangers. Rangers lead in many key roles throughout the Special Operations Forces’ (SOF) community," Colvin said.

According to Colvin, it's experiences like that, which give the current "wave of young veterans" realistic expectations regarding the Global War on Terrorism.  "As Rangers in Afghanistan, our job was to kill or capture senior members of Taliban and Al Queda.  We have discovered that we can't kill our way out of that situation just as we can't arrest our way out of an opioid epidemic in our own backyard.  It would be very nice if that were the pathway to victory, but it's just not ... We need folks in Congress who understand these things."  

Though the results from a “wave of young veterans” in Congress, have yet to be seen, Colvin said we should be optimistic, “Don’t let the talking heads screaming at each other fool you, there is still common values we all share, especially in the veteran community ... and that is a contribution I know I can make personally.”

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