Saipan Tribune — WASHINGTON, D.C.- Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) has been appointed to serve on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, it was announced this week. Veterans’ Affairs will be Sablan’s third committee, which required a special waiver from the usual two-committee limit for members of the Democratic caucus.
“Veterans in the Marianas need more attention,” Sablan said. “Too often, veterans and their families in the islands—and around the nation—are forgotten, after giving so much.
“So I went to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and asked for a waiver of the caucus rule that would allow me to serve on Veterans’ Affairs without giving up my other equally important committee assignments.
“After listening to my explanation of the situation for our Marianas veterans, [Pelosi] submitted my request to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee with her recommendation for its approval. And the Committee voted this week approving my request.
“I am very appreciative; and I look forward to the new opportunities that being on Veterans’ Affairs will give me to work for my constituents.”
The Northern Marianas delegate already serves on the Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over insular affairs. He is also on the Education and the Workforce Committee, where he recently won the ranking member seat on the subcommittee in charge of health, employment, labor, and pension issues nationwide. And in this Congress, for the first time, Sablan is a member of the subcommittee responsible for federal college and university programs in the United States.
“With seniority and experience in Congress comes the expectation that you will take a leadership role,” Sablan said. “I am willing to do that, especially when it gives me new ways to help the people I work for in the Marianas.”
Sablan said he especially looks forward to membership on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee because the new ranking member, Tim Walz (D-Minnesota), is energetic and eager to get veterans what they need.
“Tim Walz graduated from West Point, he served in the National Guard for almost 25 years, many of his staff are veterans—he knows what the needs are and he knows how to get things done. I have already invited him to come to the Marianas and meet with our veterans; and Mr. Walz’ staff has already been working with us to kick up the level of service to Marianas veterans.”
Even before appointment to the Committee, Sablan had begun focusing more of the congressional office’s time and resources on the needs of veterans. This month he is hosting a Veterans Resources Fair on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. On Veterans Day he presented a special “Welcome Home” tribute to Marianas Vietnam veterans to mark the 50th anniversary of the war.
And last year he put the Northern Marianas Humanities Council together with filmmaker and veteran Tom Voss, who brought the documentary of his struggle with post-traumatic stress syndrome to the islands. Voss then followed up with a Power Breath Meditation Workshop that has proven a powerful tool in the treatment of PTSD. About two dozen veterans, family, and friends attended the training.
In 2015 Sablan began introducing veterans in the Marianas to the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, which shows interested members of the public how to collect oral histories and document memorabilia from veterans about their service. The records then become part of the permanent collection of the Library of Congress. Several Marianas veterans have already added their experience to this national archive.
Sablan has also been active legislatively. In 2014, he worked to include language in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, to help veterans, such as those on Rota and Tinian, who have to travel by air to reach a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility. The resulting Veterans Choice Cards allow veterans in rural areas to obtain care from qualified non-VA providers closer to where the veterans live.
“I look forward to working even harder for veterans as a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee,” the Sablan said. “They earned it.”