Steil introduces his veteran liaison during Mount Pleasant event
MOUNT PLEASANT— U.S. Rep Bryan Steil, R-Wis., entered Congress wanting someone to be his “eyes, ears and boots on the ground” in the veteran community, and he has found that with U.S. Army veteran Ryan Vishaway.
Vishaway served in the Army from 2014 to 2017, finishing with the rank of specialist, and has been chosen to work in Steil’s congressional office as a liaison between the government and the veteran community.
On Friday, Steil announced that his office hired Vishaway through the Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program to work for the next two years in the 1st Congressional District, rotating between Steil’s offices in Racine, Kenosha and Janesville.
Steil, R-Wis., made the announcement Friday at the Veteran of Foreign Wars post 10301, located within Angry Brothers Pub, 6501 Washington Ave.
Vishaway, a resident of Walworth County, was born on an U.S. Air Force base in Italy where his mom was stationed.
Vishaway said he traveled a lot as a kid and believes that with his military upbringing and time in the Army, veterans will be able to connect with him.
“I hope to bring that community that we had in the military back in the veteran community,” Vishaway said. “To make sure that we all, as a collective unit, can have a raised voice together to make sure that we’re further represented in our government.”
Vishaway said he was drawn to the position in Steil’s office because it would put him in direct contact with those in Congress who have influence over major decisions at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
“When we come together and we have ideas about how to fix things like mental health or any (other) issues, we can actually sit down with the problem solvers who we elected to our government,” Vishaway said.
Working on mental health
Steil said there is a real benefit to “veterans talking to veterans.”
“I think that’s uniquely important as it relates to mental health,” Steil said. “I think there’s something there about a veteran talking to a fellow veteran who’s maybe gone through a similar experience. If they’re seeking out that mental healthcare need at the VA, they can have a conversation with their brother or sister who also served in the military, which might be just a little bit more challenging to have with somebody who isn’t a veteran themselves.”
Veterans’ mental health is one particular area Steil wants Vishaway to work on.
“The veterans suicide rate is far out pacing where it should be,” Steil said. “I think there’s a real opportunity to come together to tackle that problem and I’ve tasked Ryan with taking the problem head-on, looking for opportunities where we can make improvements to address the mental health of our veterans. In particular, to make sure that suicide rate comes all the way down because one (suicide) is too many.”
There were a few local veterans on had for the announcement and all seemed to like the idea of a veteran working in Steil’s office.
Bruce Petersen served in the Air Force from 1968-1972 and said the veteran community will benefit from someone like Vishaway.
“I think veterans can relate to someone who is a wounded warrior and they realize where we’re coming from,” Petersen said.
Ken Welch, commander of the VFW Post 10301, said he is impressed with Vishaway and is glad to have him working for Steil’s office.
“It’s almost like having a lobbyist hand-picked and placed in there,” Welch said. “I think it’ll really accelerate communication between the veterans community and Congress. I’m looking forward to what he’s able to accomplish.”