MEET ELISA CARDNELL
I was born on an Army base in West Germany. 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.
I joined Navy ROTC at Rice University and have called Houston home ever since. I served for five years on active duty, including a deployment to the Persian Gulf. I came back to Houston after having my daughter and developing asthma, my first pre-existing condition, from my deployment.
Back in Houston, I began teaching physics and math. I taught for six years, including at one of the best schools in Houston, Carnegie Vanguard High School, and at Spring Woods High School, a low income campus. I watched as my students struggled in a system that was often underfunded and cared more about multiple choice answers than critical thinking.
In April of 2018 the Navy told me that I was no longer deployable because of too many pre-existing conditions. This was a major shock to my identity. Since I was 17, I had sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic. Service was integral to my identity and this was a turning point for me.
As I was deciding what to do next, I watched as Republicans in Congress attempted to take away healthcare and pre-existing condition coverage. I also saw many great female veterans run for Congress and thought perhaps that was something I could do, but not so soon. It wasn’t until election night that I knew what came next. I watched as Dan Crenshaw, a far-right Republican, won our district with less than 53% of the vote. I knew then that it was my turn to step up and serve once more.