Celebrating Freedom and America’s Veterans for Smart Power

July 2, 2015 By Drew Xifos and Andrew Kraus

VSP Spotlight: former Captain Jim Morin, U.S. Army

As we celebrate 239 years of freedom in the United States on this July 4th, we honor the millions of Americans who defend the cause of freedom here at home and around the world. It seemed a fitting opportunity to post the first of many upcoming conversations with members of USGLC’s Veterans for Smart Power.

Nearly 30,000 strong, these former servicemembers understand firsthand why we need a strong, balanced foreign policy to keep America safe and secure, and share a commitment to elevating and strengthening civilian tools of development and diplomacy, alongside defense.

Captain Jim Morin is one of them. Here’s a little bit about Jim: He married his high school sweetheart the day after graduating from West Point Academy. He served in the 82nd Airborne Division and completed multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, he’s a proud father of five, and we’re proud to call Captain Morin a longtime friend of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

1) Please tell more about your background and how you came to military service?

    I attended West Point, graduating in June of 2001, three months before America was attacked on September 11th. There I studied military history, which was my major, and I focused on counterinsurgency. It became pretty apparent a few months after graduation just how relevant that this experience was going to be – not just for me, but for all of my classmates and the million, or so, Airmen and women, Marines, soldiers, and sailors with whom we served.

2) When was the moment when you first realized that it would take more than military power, alone, to keep us safe?

    • It was during my very first mission in Afghanistan.

My rifle platoon and I arrived in January 2003. We were stationed in an area that was highly contested with the Taliban. I recall the day we brought food and supplies to a small village, just a stone’s throw from the Pakistan border.

As is the custom in Afghanistan, the elders invited our leadership in for tea. We asked them, “What can we do for you to help your village?” We expected excitement at the gifts we brought. But I was taken by surprise when the village elder responded that they asked for a pair of mating goats.

It was a lightbulb moment for me and everyone else there. Afghans – and I saw the same thing in Iraq – they don’t want a handout. They just want to be able to provide a little better for their families.

I found out later that there are development professionals, who knew that answer long before I got there.

I’m proud of the assistance we were able to provide, but there are experts who have dedicated their entire lives to helping others get a hand-up in life. It would have been so great to have had more of that support from the other branches of our government, from NGOs, and the other pieces of American power to achieve America’s goals.

3) As a Veteran, why do you think America needs to invest in development and diplomacy?

    • There two key elements. One, which is the most important of all, is the truth. And the second is one of the rarer things in Washington, which is actual personal experience.

I’ve seen the impact of our foreign assistance. It’s is not a gift to get others to like us, but a tool to advance our national interests, all of them, including our ability to put food on the table.

On behalf of my fellow soldiers and the people with whom I served, thanks for being here and helping to keep this fight going.

A couple of weeks ago, Captain Morin travelled from Austin, Texas to D.C. to speak at our annual Summit. Attended by nearly 400 former military, business, civic, and faith-based leaders from over two dozen states, these State Leaders also went Capitol Hill to make the case for a strong and effective International Affairs Budget

Jim’s story is one of many from those who have served. Help strengthen the Veterans for Smart Power voice by telling your story and joining us on Facebook.

Photo: The military voice and our national security workshop panelists Admiral James M. Loy, USCG (ret.), General Henry H. Shelton, USA (ret.) former USGLC National Security Advisory Council Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, James Morin Former Captain U.S. Army, Geoff Garin, Bill McInturff with moderator Ambassador Mark Green, September 2010. Source: USGLC, Flickr