Thursday, March 27, 2014

Garett Reppenhagen - Coordinator for Vet Voice Foundation

Today ADC is featuring Garett Reppenhagen - Coordinator for Vet Voice Foundation.

Could you please introduce yourself and tell us where you are originally from?
My name is Garett Reppenhagen and I served as a cavalry scout sniper for the US Army in Kosovo and Iraq. I grew up in a military family so I moved seven times before I was thirteen years old. My family was stationed in Ft Carson when I was tiny and when my father retired we moved back to the mountains. I went to Manitou Springs High and joined the service from Colorado. I lived in the state longer than any other, so I consider myself a local.

Could you give a brief history of yourself?
After dropping out of high school I traveled around and got into a lot of trouble. I was working three minimum wage jobs before deciding to join the military. While in Iraq I stopped believing in the mission there so a started an anti-war mil blog called “Fight To Survive (FTS)”. After an involuntary extension of my contract I was Honorably Discharged in 2005. I joined the anti-war movement and became a lead organizer in Iraq Veterans Against the War. I have been a veterans advocate and a social justice activist ever since.

What made you decide to work for Vet Voice Foundation?
 I helped start Veterans Green Jobs where which was a service organization with a mission to help veterans find jobs and training in the green economy. I built a conservation program called Veteran Green Corps and was putting hundreds of veterans into corps positions trail building and fighting forest fires. While with V.G.J, I was often asked if I could help on the policy side to support laws that would create more green initiatives and conserve land and water. When an opportunity for a job came up that focused on green policies I was excited to shift my tactics. I became a Coordinator for Vet Voice Foundation and have been at this job for two years now.

What sort of problems do you run into when you are doing your job?
 It is hard to work in the realm of politics. Despite the fact I don’t support elections and campaigns, I find that any issues I work on become partisan and need some congressional or senate support. I have to deal with decision makers that have hidden agendas and frequently lie about their intentions. To get common sense laws passed that the community supports is like pulling teeth and more often than not I work on initiatives for months only to have them dead end and die.

What are some of the biggest enjoyments or pleasures you find from doing this?
It’s great to be able to make a difference in issues I care about and plug veterans into campaigns that give them purpose again. I will be able to take my kids to Chimney Rock National Monument and tell them that I helped make sure it was protected by encouraging the President to use the Antiquities Act. I can see friends get jobs as Solar Panel installers and know that I have pass tax incentives to drive the clean energy economy. I can see the impact I have when I work on voting rights, immigration reform and civil union laws in my own neighborhood.

Do you have any advice to people that want to get into this?
Make sure you have the dedication. It is not just a job and it sometimes overtakes your life. You also have to be prepared to see the injustices and flaws in our political and social systems that most people can neglect and ignore.

What inspires you or who inspires you?
Social justice organizers are easy to admire. Everyone from Cesar Chavez to MLK. But, the friends I see every day making sacrifices for change are the ones that amaze me. People who are not paid to spend hours as an activist and work to develop smarter and more creative ways to build a movement.

I know that you are very busy man and you have a ton of ideas, what are some of the current things that are on your list to do over the next 2 years?
 I would like to see Climate Change become a something that is no longer a matter of debate. The incredible amount of scientific data and the overwhelming consequences are too much to ignore. I would like to see real laws that turn back pollution and make renewable energy affordable for everyone. Also, I think a complete revision of our tax system, election process, and fair economy needs to get overhauled. We need to take the occupy movement from the street into the court rooms.

What is your favorite Denver Brewery or local restaurant?
 I like Strange Brew and Renegade breweries. I try to support food trucks as much as I can. They are the best small businesses in Denver. I am a sucker for ice cream so I dip into Sweat Action too often.

Who is your favorite Horror Film Character? Jack from the Shining. Product of being over worked in a psycho place. I can identify.

Do you have a favorite local band that you love to watch in concert? 
I wrote a song for my friends in The Bouncing Souls called “Letter from Iraq” So I see them anytime they come around.

Where can we stalk you?
 Best place to catch me is at a Warm Cookies of the Revolution event. I am on the board of directors and it is a great activist community for civic change. We do events a few times a month at the McNichols Building, Buntport Theater or the Denver Art Museum.

Do you have any websites that you think people should check out?