Leader Spotlight: Maggie Seymour
Our Leader Spotlight series highlights the diverse, dynamic membership of our grassroots movement of veterans. VFAI leader Maggie Seymour is a self-described small-town Midwestern girl at heart. She is a United States Marine Corps veteran based in Charleston, South Carolina who recently earned her PhD. An avid ultra-runner, she embarked on a 99-day run across the United States in 2017. Through support of individual donors and a generous sponsor, Maggie raised $100,000 to support veterans, special needs athletes, and gold star families. We sat down with Maggie to learn more about her passion for service and community.
Tell me about your military service.
I joined the Marine Corps in 2007 after my cousin, also a Marine, was killed in Iraq. I was impressed by the Marines who attended the ceremony for no other reason than he was a Marine. I wanted to be a part of something like that. I commissioned after I graduated university and was stationed in North Carolina, Virginia, and San Diego. I deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and then Kuwait as an intelligence officer.
How did your service shape the person you are today?
My time in the Marine Corps showed me that service comes in many forms. As a veteran I often hear “thank you for your service,” meaning my service to my country. As I look back, however, I think my service was more to my fellow Marines. Where I really made an impact, and where I felt I was the most useful, was when I was helping, teaching, and mentoring other Marines—and that’s something I can do out of uniform. Service isn’t just about wearing cammies or deploying overseas, service is about helping the people around you.
As a veteran, what sort of responsibility do you feel to speak up on issues that relate to American ideals?
Military veterans remain one of the last institutions or citizen groups largely trusted by the American public. Whether or not that’s warranted, the fact that we have the trust means we have a responsibility. We have to speak out on behalf of American ideals and continue to try and live up to the promises of this country. We also have a responsibility to maintain the public’s trust by leading often charged and emotional discussions with empathy, courage, critical thinking, and respect.
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?
Right now, I’m working on refugee and immigration issues. As a veteran I’ve witnessed the effects of war and instability on real human beings. As an academic, I’ve studied the net positive effects of a country that’s welcoming to refugees and immigrants. As an individual, it’s about doing the right thing, but as a citizen it’s about doing the right thing for our country. That means protecting our refugee admissions program and welcoming these populations into our communities. It’s critical to our national security, our economy, and our collective moral conscience.
I’m also working on breaking down barriers for medical marijuana, specifically for its use by veterans. I’m working with lawmakers to increase research into the benefits and risks of marijuana as a first step to logical and empathetic drug reform.
What would you say to other veterans about the role that they can play in these issues as citizens?
Civic engagement is one of the most important ways we can serve after our military service. Our contracts may be up, but our obligation as citizen leaders never expires.
Speak up, work for something besides yourself. Use your experience as a veteran to bring a unique perspective, but don’t do it from a soap box. Understand that the “veteran voice,” is varied and nuanced. Understand that the public, generally, has a trust in us—we must be careful to protect that trust and to use it for good.