Now that he has been elected commander of the Queens district, retired Sgt. Marvin Jeffcoat is ready to go to war — with pencil pushers — for his fellow veterans.
Jeffcoat was named Queens commander for the congressionally chartered Veterans of Foreign Wars following an April election.
As head of the group, he will preside over meetings, appoint and advise officers and be in charge of the 26 VFW posts in Queens. But the main item on his agenda is veterans’ rights, which is often ignored by policy makers, he said.
“I want to see elected officials work harder to resolve veterans’ issues,” he said. “Whether it’s getting a job or an education, or easing the difficulties they face when obtaining U.S. citizenship.”
But it must be a genuine attempt and not just a symbolic one.
“I’ve seen politicians jump on the band wagon and provide citizenship posthumously,” he said, “but this is something they should do for those who make it home alive.”
Queens County has the second-largest population of veterans in New York, but has subpar facilities and services to serve them, he said.
“We still need a full veterans’ medical center with an emergency room,” Jeffcoat said, “and we don’t have enough resources to care for homeless veterans and they’re the hardest population to assist.”
He said not enough is being done to help soldiers – retired and active – and it’s not right. It reminded him of how veterans were treated during Vietnam.
“It isn’t fair,” he said. “The military only does what they’re told to do. Congress sent them to serve, put them in harm’s way, to protect the nation.”
Like the Vietnam War, many were against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 – Jeffcoat was not one of them.
“Personally I think that given the information available at the time President Bush was correct to order the invasion of Iraq,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean he wants the United States to remain in Iraq. America must do what is in its national interests, and that involves a stable, democratic Iraq. And it should be done using America’s political and economic power in addition to its military might.
“We have to do it right,” Jeffcoat said, “I don’t want to put my sons in harm’s way later on.”
The future of America is intimately tied to the well-being of its troops, protectors, and as part of the VFW, Jeffcoat said he will continue fighting for them.
Former VFW commander for the Queens district, James Blount Jr. believes Jeffcoat is going to be a great leader. Blount has worked with him for several years, and saw him come up the leadership hierarchy.
“I knew he was going to be commander one day,” he said. “Marvin’s a tremendous leader, one who goes the extra mile for his comrades.”
Blount recalled one particular instance, on the Sunday before Memorial Day a year ago. He needed help taking fruits and gifts to wounded veterans at a hospital and only Jeffcoat was avaliable to help.
“He bought his wife and boys to help out,” he said, “What a kind, unique thing to do. It showed his leadership, and all I could say was ‘You’re ready.’”