As the debate over military action against ISIS captivated Capitol Hill Wednesday, staffers and lawmakers gathered to help veterans from our most recent wars in their transition to civilian life.
The National Republican Club of Capitol Hill held its second annual clothing drive Wednesday morning and this year the professional attire will be donated to veterans.
“We have thousands of returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan that are now looking to get into the workforce,” said Capitol Hill Club General Manager Stan Lawson. “And they’re in need of professional attire.”
Starting at 7 a.m., Hill staffers and members of Congress stopped by the Capitol Hill Club to drop off gently worn suits, dress shirts, sport coats and more. Organizers collected roughly 3,500 garments, which is nearly triple the amount of clothing collected at last year’s drive.
Many donors dropped off the clothing at the door of the club, where a handful of staff members brought the clothing inside.
Other donors entered the club to find a joyous atmosphere and a number of breakfast sandwiches. In the Eisenhower room, three women dressed in World War II era costumes sang patriotic songs including "God Bless America" and other upbeat tunes such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
The women were members of American Bombshells Patriotic Services, a veterans service organization, which partnered with the Capitol Hill Club to host the event as part of their “Boots and Suits” program.
“These are all being distributed all around the country,” said Ali Reeder, American Bombshells CEO and founder. “We already have at least five different locations nationwide that are going to be recipients of these suits,” she said, including Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The American Bombshells will also ensure that the suits are cleaned and tailored to the veterans who receive them.
A handful of members of Congress were in and out at the event, including one of the event’s honorary co-chairmen, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a Marine and veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“When you’ve been in the military, you haven’t been wearing a suit, you haven’t been going to buy clothes really because you’ve had uniforms,” said Hunter. “It’s one of those things you don’t think about.”
Another honorary co-chairwoman, Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., wanted to ensure female veterans also benefited from the clothing drive.
“It’s very, very important that we are providing a great deal for the women too ... We’ve got to do everything we can to make sure they’re taken care of,” said Ellmers. She also said she sent a number of emails to her fellow female lawmakers over the August recess, reminding them to donate their clothing.
Ellmers and Hunter donated items from their own closets, which will particularly help veterans who may not be able to afford a suit, as 2nd Lt. Austin McCrary pointed out.
McCrary, 25, was in the Army for seven-and-a-half years and was at the Capitol Hill Club Wednesday because he was driving the American Bombshells. He said he wasn’t sure what the event entailed until he arrived, but was pleased with the worthy cause.
“I’ve had soldiers that, they’re low income, they’re not going to go buy a suit unless they absolutely have to have one,” said McCrary. He later added, “Now they need something to move on and sometimes they may not have the means to do so.”
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