First Responders see us — and take care of us — on our worst days, and whether it’s police, firefighters, or paramedics, in the year 2020 those first responders have had to handle the pandemic, the civil unrest and looting, and are bringing all of those experiences with them when they cast their ballots.
Chicago Fire Department Lt. Brian Velez is looking ahead to the election and says “this election is important because there’s a lot going on.”
Firehouse 22 on the city’s north side is where Velez is based. He’s a Chicago firefighter, husband and father of five who was also a United States Marine.
The issues that matter most to him hit the closest to home.
“Security is huge for me, making sure that our nation is protected, so the military making sure the military is funded. Also, making sure the country itself is prosperous,” he said.
This election is also on the minds of his three oldest children who are also voting this year, and he says that they are focused on a more wide-ranging set of issues.
“My daughter wants to make sure there are health care benefits, right? Pretty soon she’s going to be transitioning from my insurance to trying to figure out her own insurance,” he said.
The pandemic has been difficult for all. As a firefighter, Velez has witnessed the challenges many Chicagoans are facing.
“People are struggling out there, we see it all the time when dealing with depression, and abuse, substance abuse,” Velez says. “We never know we’re going to respond to, but having empathy and compassion for those we are out there to help, it really does ease a lot of that tension.”
Of course, he’s also seen the struggles on the streets, including this summer’s protests and civil unrest in Chicago.
“Every weekend as we drive down Wilson, there’s usually people holding signs, there’s usually rallies, making people aware of the issues that are out there,” he said.
With the pandemic forcing voters to make decisions on how they wanted to cast their ballots, Velez opted to vote early.
“I wanted to make sure that I got in there and voted,” he said. “With the pandemic, I wasn’t exactly sure how things we’re going to play out. I wanted to make sure I got in early.”
As a ‘Voice for 2020,’ Lt. Velez had some simple advice.
“Our views may differ, but we all want to do our duty and get out there and vote,” he said.