WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – State Representative John Velis (D-Westfield) will be sent to South Korea this August to participate in military training exercises with the U.S. Army and allies in the region. Velis is a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve and has previously deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
The Korean Peninsula is a notoriously volatile region, especially as of late. Recently, North Korea has been testing advanced weapons systems, sparking a renewed fear that they may start conflict. Just this past Friday, President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to further expand the sanctions against North Korea in response to its continued development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
“Anytime I go overseas with the Army, I consider myself to be incredible fortunate. This nation was founded by citizen soldiers and their sacrifice. For me, the highest honor is being able to put on my uniform and serve my country,” says Velis. “America is, without a doubt, the greatest country on this Earth, and anyone who has any doubts only needs to travel elsewhere to see why.”
Captain Velis is not the first Massachusetts legislator to serve overseas while in office. In fact, his fellow State Representatives Jerald Parisella (D-Beverly) and Harold Naughton (D-Clinton) are both Majors in his Army Reserve Unit. Major Naughton has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan during his tenure as Representative, and Major Parisella was deployed to Iraq shortly after assuming office in 2011.
Representative Velis continued, “In addition to these missions making me a better soldier, they also make me a better public servant. As Vice Chairman of the Veterans and Federal Affairs committee, it’s important to me to stay connected to my fellow service members. Being in the service allows me to fully understand and appreciate issues confronting our service members and veterans. Plus, there’s nothing like being 7000 miles from home to remind you how great America really is, not to mention just how much you appreciate your daily coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts.”
Despite being so far away, Velis says his office will run normally. Velis describes his full-time legislative aide, Emily Swanson, as “one of the best in the Commonwealth.” Swanson is currently in charge of constituent services and handles many legislative issues.
“My office will remain open and fully functional with me overseas. She’ll probably be even better without me in the office,” said Velis, laughing. “Her days are about to get a whole lot busier, though, that’s for sure.”
The training mission will last approximately a month and falls during the legislature’s summer recess. Velis will not be missing any votes or hearings while he is overseas.