Leader Spotlight: Colin Raunig
Veterans for American Ideals is recognizing veteran leaders who are continuing their service by building unity and standing up for American values. Through a series of interviews, we’re asking VFAI leaders to share more about how their service shaped them and what responsibility they feel veterans have to speak up on issues that relate to our national ideals.
Today’s interview is with Colin Raunig, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who served as a Naval Flight Officer for 8 years. He is currently an MFA student of fiction at Colorado State University, and co-leads the Veterans for American Ideals Colorado team.
Tell me about your military service.
I was a Naval Flight Officer on the E6B Mercury in Oklahoma City out of Tinker Air Force base. That was my primary job for my sea tour. For my shore tour, I was an exchange officer at the Japanese Naval Academy for two years.
I joined because I had some family that had served in the Navy. When it was about time to apply to college, I decided to apply to the Naval Academy. That ended up working out for me!
How did your service shape the person you are today?
It forced me outside of my bubble and it made me consider issues in the real world that I don’t think I would have confronted had I just gone to college. I think it prepared me for getting out of the Navy as well, to be aware of different things and to tackle problems with some of the discipline and effort that was required of me in the Navy. Even though what I’m studying now is very different than what I was doing in the Navy, I am still applying some of the same lessons that I learned.
As a veteran, what sort of responsibility do you feel to speak up on issues that relate to American ideals?
Something I’m very aware of because I’m a veteran, and especially because of my time in Japan, is not only the role that the military has in America, but the role the American military has in the world.
Specifically, helping the vulnerable is important to me because that’s what I saw as one of the larger missions that I was trying to accomplish while I was on active duty. Working with Veterans for American Ideals seemed like a great opportunity for me to be able to do that as a veteran.
Tell me about one issue related to those ideals that is of particular importance or concern to you right now. What are you doing about it?
The refugee issue is important to me. In my hometown, there were a lot of first and second generation immigrants from all over the world. So while that was not my personal family history, I had a lot of friends and acquaintances growing up who were part of that America.
When I saw that there were other veteran writers who were part of VFAI, like Matt Gallagher and Phil Klay, it inspired me. It made me realize I could contribute as a writer. In grad school I didn’t know what contributions I’d make in the world, then I saw these writers contributing in a way that went beyond their own creative aspirations. I realized I could speak up and use my voice as a writer on these issues. I think that spreading a message of welcoming refugees to try to change minds or at least communicate the importance of it from the perspective of veterans, is so important.
What would you say to other veterans about the role that they can play in these issues as citizens?
I’d say to other veterans that the issues that VFAI believes in are the same issues that you believe in. And you can definitely play a role, whether it’s with writing, or another talent you bring. There are a lot of different ways to help, and you can contribute as part of VFAI, or on your own. These are nonpartisan issues and it’s important to get involved.