November 11, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) honors those who have served and sacrificed as members of our nation’s Armed Forces. Last weekend, Congressman Lieu marked Veterans Day with his annual “Conversations with Veterans” community gathering and listened to the stories of veterans from California’s 33rd District. Congressman Lieu invited non-veteran members of the community to attend the event to foster understanding and connection among veterans and those for whom they served. This year’s event was held virtually.

“I was pleased to host this event to honor my fellow veterans and welcome so many of our neighbors to hear their stories,” Rep. Lieu said. “Each veteran’s story offered a different perspective of military service, but at the core of each was the courage and selflessness shown by all those who serve. Below are just a few of the many stories shared by our district’s veterans. Happy Veterans Day!”

Jennifer Painter, Army:

“The lessons I learned from the Army:  not to be afraid of making a mistake; to sincerely do your best and lead from the front.  Most importantly, be humble and remember you don’t know more than the people working for you.”

Juan Hernandez, Air Force:

“I was deployed to IRAQ from 2008 to 2009…. The scariest moment was the first time I endured the camp getting attacked by mortars.  The enemy would drive up in open trucks and shoot off mortars into the camp.  We had to be alert and ensure the enemy wouldn't go through the gate and storm into the camp.  It was that first incident that hit home to me just how dangerous this deployment was.  But you say to yourself.  Focus on your training. You have to stay calm.  Your brothers and sisters depend on you.  It didn't get easier, but it wasn't as scary.

“The biggest thing I took away from this experience is the connection you make. You miss your family, but it's like you found a new family there.”

Joseph Proffitt, Navy:

“I am a United States Navy Veteran… the Navy is part of me and I am part of the Navy. What we do as a citizen is the mark we leave in the next chapter of our life, and we shouldn't stop making an impact on the world, protecting those that cannot protect themselves, and continuing to believe in something bigger than ourselves.

“So, have these fireside chats with your friends, your families, your neighbors and be the inspiration for positive change in society, make your callsign that which reflects your character and for those in this group they echo honor, courage, and commitment.”

Fernando Salazar, Jr., Marines:

“I was in Alpha Company First Battalion Fourth Marines in an Infantry Unit out of Camp Pendelton. I was sent to IRAQ during the invasion also known as the Tip of the Spear…. As a squad leader of 6 Marines, I always had to be looking out for my men…. We are trained to make immediate life or death decisions. They drill it in you from bootcamp, if you make mistakes, people can die. There is no time for hesitation.

“I started having nightmares…[and] dealing with depression and I started to get anxiety attacks and was eventually diagnosed with PTSD. 7 years after Iraq I got help and decided to get my master’s degree in social work. Now I help other veterans dealing with PTSD and other similar transition issues as a Social Worker in a transition program at the VA. I also help recruit sponsors to help our service men and women transition to civilian life through another program.”