Eclipse Magazine - Produced by NABVETS 2015 First Edition | Page 11

are frustrated and living in poverty. What did he expect would happen,” Rangel asks. “We’ve been fighting for over 12 years, and it seems to me that President Obama had high hopes we would extract ourselves from this. How do we fight a war we have declared, with an enemy that changes and can’t be identified? How will we know what victory even looks like?” He reserves special criticism for religious leaders who have been largely absent from the debate about not only the war, but also civil rights issues on American soil. “The righteous should stand up and say, ‘It’s wrong to kill people, it’s wrong to kill people with drones, it’s wrong to jail people like animals. But I haven’t seen one rabbi or imam or priest come out to speak about these universal truths. History will record the silence of those who deal with laws higher than those man has enacted.” Being in the trenches of Korea may have been the ultimate training for outlasting his critics in the political trenches of Washington. Rangel has often said he hasn’t had a bad day since Kunu-ri, and he means it. “I’ve kept my promise to not complain after I survived that day. I’ve had serious health issues, people trying to get to me, dodging the bullets of trials and failures. But whenever a bad day tries to come, it takes a good look at me and steps aside,” says the congressman. In 2007, Rangel fused his colorful political life and military career into a memoir, And I Haven’t Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress (available at Amazon and other major book sellers). He may have reconsidered the comment in 2010, though, when he was censured for ethics violations, which he steadfastly claimed were not intentional. When Rangel looks at the situation for African Americans today, at the violence in Ferguson and elsewhere, he puts it in perspective using 60 years of history he has had a hand in making. “I marched the full 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, cussing all the way. At that time, I couldn’t conceive of a way there would ever be an African-American president. And here we are, with an African-American president. We’ve come all that way, but there’s still so far to go, and so many obstacles to overcome,” he says. But Rangel also has a possible solution for what still ails America, and it involves seeing more young AfricanAmericans follow in his political footsteps. “My advice to young people is to give [public service] a try before you get involved earning money you don’t want to give up. So many people who would be good at it, who have the talent for it and could make a difference, their income doesn’t allow them to consider changing their life. So if you’re lucky enough to marry someone like I did, who wants to share in this adventure, do it. Doing good for people, you get more back than you ever put in.” At 84, Rangel is the second-longest serving House member, behind John Conyers. That doesn’t mean he’s slowing down, though. Rangel still spends his days debating his colleagues, pushing forward on his agendas and voting on the floor as he has since 1971. But the man who has made public service his life is finally ready to enjoy retirement with his wife Alma, who he met on the dance floor of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem in 1964. “When I was campaigning, I announced that this would be my last term. I came back because I thought Obama had a good chance to get some things done in the last two years and he was prepared to use his executive authority more… I want to be part of that, to finish what we started.” Future Congressman Rangel served during the Korean War and was wounded in an attack by waves of Communist Chinese troops. He was awarded a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for Valor after leading his surviving comrades from behind enemy lines. NABVETS Eclipse Magazine 2015 First Edition 11