To our Veterans, family members and friends:
This is my final Veteran Voices greeting as director of your WDVA. I announced my retirement last month, or what I call Permanent Vacation, after 30 years with this amazing agency. “Serving Those Who Served” has been an honor and privilege and I leave state government with confidence and a song in my heart because WDVA will be in great hands.
Through 30 years, that started with my first opportunity at the Soldiers Home in 1993 to today, I have seen tremendous growth in staff, programs, services and relationships. Your WDVA has the largest portfolio of services of any state Veterans Affairs department in the country. This is due to our team’s creativity, focus on innovation, passion to serve, and to YOU. We could not do this work without our partners and friends who make our arms a little longer to embrace and serve our warriors and their families.
I am so proud of programs that cover a wide range of options and services that fit just about every possible veteran need. We have more than 30 programs that include environmental conservation, suicide prevention, agriculture, traumatic brain injury, clinical counseling, military spouse community integration, peer support, transitional housing, incarcerated veterans, LGBTQ+, apprenticeships, estate management, long term care, Women Veterans, and state cemetery (and plans for more) to name a few.
I am grateful for Governor Inslee’s and our Legislature’s support, especially during some tough economic challenges and the pandemic. We grew during the hard times and that was due to them recognizing that these are the times when Veterans need us most.
I am also grateful and proud to work with an agency leadership team that embodies servant leadership led by our Deputy Director, David Puente. They work at battle speed every day to ensure our teams have what they need to do their best work.
Finally and as always, I leave you with a call to action. We need to keep the three-legged stool balanced to ensure stability and quality of life for our veterans and their families as our financial, physical and emotional wellness are paramount. Every eligible veteran and family member should have meaningful work if able, receipt of their service-connected benefits or pension, VA health care, and emotional wellness services. Our second mission is no different than when we served, to care for each other and not leave anyone behind. When you see a veteran in need, make a timely referral to your WDVA or service organization. Each of us has value, needs purpose and that is what keeps us living and thriving.
For my brothers and sisters who served, and in our military tradition, this is Tatoo.
With my deepest gratitude for your service and sacrifices,