I was born on an Army base. My dad was a field artillery officer, and my mom stayed home to raise our family. Service was our life and in my DNA.
I was a junior in high school on September 11, 2001 and the world seemed to stop. I lived in a community where many of my classmates had active-duty parents, and by the end of the day, the deployment orders had begun. I was already on the path towards my own service, but that cemented my decision.
Earning my commission and serving as an Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer in the Navy wasn't always easy, but I learned to keep going and to rely on the people around me for support. In the Navy, I always looked out for the sailors I served with -- because that is a leader's responsibility.
After the Navy, when I returned to Houston to teach, I brought my own experiences of having grit and living up to high expectations with me to the classroom. But as a mom, I had also learned to be more patient, with myself and with my students. I realized that I wanted to change the system for these students, so that they could learn creatively, not just to bubble in multiple choice answers. Life doesn't work that way. I started looking for ways to bring innovative solutions to my students.
After leaving active duty, I faced the realities of our broken veterans' healthcare system and found that those solutions were needed for all of us. As I began considering ways to bring about bigger change, the 2016 election happened. At just five years old, my daughter was devastated, because even she was aware of how mean politics has become. I studied political science in college, but it wasn't until I had hung up my uniform for good in the spring of 2018 that I felt that I could be openly partisan. And by then I knew that I couldn't be anything else.
We need ethical leaders in Washington, D.C., and around the country, who are idealistic enough to believe that real change can happen. We need leaders who are pragmatic enough to realize that the root of democracy is hearing all the voices and governing from a place of common ground, and that requires some compromise where we can. We need leaders who do not compromise on core values or human dignity.
That is why I am once more answering the call to serve my country.