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MVAA Director releases statement on Buffalo N.Y. shooting

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Fellow veterans and veteran advocates,

As you may know, on Saturday, May 14, a gunman shot and killed 10 people and injured three others at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. Authorities say the gunman was white, targeting a predominately black neighborhood, with 11 of his victims being black. It's being investigated as a racially motivated hate crime. This news is especially troubling for myself, my family and my colleagues. The victims of this horrible crime were allegedly targeted not because of anything they had done, but because of the color of their skin.

We live in a country that should be free for all; going safely to the grocery store should be a right. Sadly, we are no strangers to violent attacks on Black people who are going about their daily lives. We owe it to ourselves and our neighbors to say something when we see it, at home or at work. We have the responsibility of cutting these things down when we see them rising. We should all strive to call out racism wherever and whenever we see it.

Police say the person behind this shooting was only 18, barely into adulthood and already his heart was filled with hate. We have not done enough for the newest generation and there will always be a new generation. As veterans, as those who swore to protect this country from enemies both foreign and domestic, we owe it to ourselves, and the next generation of military members and veterans, to stand up and speak up when we see something. Events like these should pull at the humanity in all of us. I know it has affected me. It should not be in our nature to turn a blind eye or ignore the hate crimes spewed upon a race of people going about their everyday lives just because of the amount of melanin in their skin. White supremacy theories and white nationalist rhetoric does not tell the true story of the birth of our country and is not American, because America is a melting pot. We became a nation because of the efforts of whites AND blacks and many others. We struck down tyranny together, which is why we need to move forward in a united way, together. We are all connected and should all be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin.

I know this news can be troubling and triggering for some, but I want you to know you are not alone. If you or someone you know needs help, call the Veterans Crisis Line to speak confidentially with a qualified crisis counselor at 1-800-273-8255, and Press 1. You can also text 838255 or chat with a qualified responder online. We also have a list of mental health resources on our website.

As a final note, I want to remind my fellow veterans that we have a duty that was bestowed upon us through our military service to speak up when we hear a comment from a colleague, friend or anyone who spews hate. We need to use our words, pen to paper, and peaceful actions to send a clear message that hate is not welcome here. We are, after all, in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let’s show up and act like it.

Zaneta Adams,
Director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency