Leader Spotlight: Sharon Robino-West
Vets for American Ideals’ Leader Spotlight series highlights our diverse and dynamic veteran leaders. Today, we hear from Sharon Robino-West of Omaha, Nebraska.
Tell me about your military service.
I spent four years in the United States Marine Corps from 1980 to 1984. I am a Beirut-era Marine. I worked in communication electronics. Graduating early from high school, I signed up (with my mom’s blessing) the day after I turned 17. Becoming a Marine seemed like a really important way to serve my country. I also joined because I thought I was going to work in public affairs. Instead, I spent all of my enlisted time in communication electronics.
How did your service shape the person you are today?
My service in the Corps has everything to do with who I am today. I was always independent and a deep thinker, and someone who loves adventure, but more than anything else, the Marines made me a leader. I learned so much about life in the Corps, that’s what continues to be the foundation for how I live and work today.
As a veteran, what sort of responsibility do you feel to speak up on issues that relate to American ideals?
As a veteran, I feel even more responsible to speak out on the issues that go directly to the heart of this nation. I am compelled to remind others what makes this country so unique. We were given a gift when we were born here. I’m committed to making sure that we protect our democratic institutions and values. We must also honor those who served with us and sacrificed for us, and build understanding with civilians.
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?
For me, a particularly important issue is ensuring the safety and protection of our wartime allies. Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) recipients, those who served with American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, have sacrificed so much for this country. My son is also a Marine veteran who served as a rifleman in Al Anbar province, Iraq in 2006. Without his Marine brothers and the SIV who supported them, my son would not have made it back.
When the United States left Vietnam, we left our Laotian allies behind—which was a moral failure on our part. Today, we must heed the lessons of that time and take care of our SIV’s and their families. In doing so, we not only begin to heal our past in some small way, but we preserve the loyalty promised to our allies. We are only as good as our word, and we must keep the promises that we make. I go out of my way to share with others the amazing stories of our wartime allies and what we owe them and their families.
What would you say to other veterans about the role that they can play in these issues as citizens?
We all have a civic duty to our country. I believe veterans have a yearning within them that began with their military service, and it will always be with them. That hunger will only begin to be satisfied when they continue that inner mission of service. There are many humanitarian roles that veterans can play by getting involved in issues our country is facing today. When issues seem insurmountable, and our nation is bitterly divided, veterans can lead the way. We always find a way to get the job done.