This year, like many other mothers, I will be celebrating Mother’s Day practicing social distancing. Sadly, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of us will have to share virtual hugs with our children, while expressing our love with the assistance of social media.
This is not uncharted territory for me. Having served 29 years in the Army Reserve, I spent several Mother’s Days deployed abroad in service to my country. Phone calls were the only option I had to communicate with my then-young children. Now, our situation has flipped; my daughter Kerrianne is serving at a NATO base in the US Air Force. This year, she will be calling me.
For combat veterans and Blue Star moms like me, the COVID-19 pandemic can feel eerily similar to battle. America is fighting a war, but the battlefields we are standing on today are strikingly different. They’re located in communities like mine on the South Shore of Long Island, where I am running to be the first woman and first Black representative from New York’s Second Congressional District.
The pandemic has exposed just how interconnected the world has become. COVID-19 knows no borders. It does not discriminate. However, the devastating effect it has on certain communities highlights the historical, cultural, and economic disparities in this country that so many elected officials in Washington would prefer to ignore.
While many of us shelter in our own homes, our essential workers bravely ensure that the needs of our communities are met. Grocery store personnel, transit employees, maintenance staff, postal workers, and volunteers—just to name a few—are risking their lives because they can’t work from home. Small business owners are struggling to keep their doors open. Healthcare workers, especially the women who make up nearly 80% of the medical workforce, are tirelessly functioning overtime to see our ailing loved ones through this crisis. And first responders are experiencing pre-traumatic stress reactions as they work on the frontlines transporting COVID-19 patients to hospitals.
Based on epidemiological data, it is an undeniable reality that Black and Latino communities in the United States, including here in New York, are contracting the virus and dying from it at disproportionate rates. This is a phenomenon that has been precipitated by persistent inequities in healthcare, education, employment, and housing.
In this time of global battle, communities – especially disenfranchised communities, which are already at a tactical disadvantage – must purposefully band together and advocate for each other. I’m aware that this is not an easy task, but I am up for the challenge.
I’ve lived my entire life in service to others: as an Army Reservist, as an educator, and as a town councilwoman for 13 years. These life experiences have empowered me to be an astute, compassionate, results-driven, and focused advocate for the people I serve.
In the Army, there’s a term called “battle rhythm” that drives the strategic approach to every mission. As a commanding officer, it was my job to make sure that my troops had the resources they needed to maintain their battle rhythm and win the war. We cannot win this war or the next one if we do not maintain the battle rhythms of our communities.
That means expanding access to affordable health care for everyone, regardless of preexisting conditions. It means lowering the cost of prescription drugs so that no one has to choose between medication and putting food on the table. It means preserving Social Security and Medicare so that older Americans can have a safety net. It means making sure that our schools and teachers have the resources that they need in every district.
As a woman, particularly as a Black woman, these issues are of heightened concern to me. And as a mother, I know that if discriminatory inequities are left unaddressed, our children’s futures, and those of their children, will be bleak.
This is a challenging time for my district and our country, and it demands leadership, leaders who will stand up for all constituents. As we all approach a Mother’s Day on the battlefield, I vow to continue using my voice to make a difference. Just as I served our country on the frontlines, I will serve our country in Congress.
Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Jackie Gordon is a candidate for Congress in New York’s 2nd Congressional District (Long Island’s South Shore), a Blue Star Mom, retired United States Army Reservist, former town councilwoman, and a career public school educator.