JW Cortés: I am Latino. I am a veteran. In 2016, I will make my voice heard

© Copyright: All rights reserved Charles Diaz Photography

 (© Copyright: All rights reserved Charles Diaz Photography)

I still remember the day I was called to serve and be a part of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

My father was sobbing. He himself is a Vietnam veteran and could understand the effects that war can have on a soldier, let alone his son. He understood the sacrifice – the same sacrifice that millions of families across the country continually make.

I spent nearly 13 years in the United States Marine Corps, and, in my time there, I met people from some of the most underserved communities in our country. Many were young people of color, not old enough to buy a beer but who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their brothers and sisters in uniform.

I write this today because I think we can do better for them. 

It’s frustrating to think of all the veterans who are sent to battle and lose limbs, come back with emotional distress and find themselves on waiting lists to receive much-needed health care. 

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And the next leader of our country has the immense responsibility of deciding if or when to send young men and women into danger, knowing that they may not return.

To me, those families are why this election is so important. You might have a family member who’s currently serving, and each vote you cast can determine his or her future as well as the future of our country. 

I’m happy to partner with Voto Latino on National Voter Registration Day, a day in which thousands of organizations come together to register as many voters as possible. We have to make our voices heard.

I vote for all the Latino veterans and their families who have decided to defend the country they call home, yet have been made out to feel less American. My vote is a reminder to politicians that I will not let them insult those of us who defend our country’s democracy at home and abroad, despite having a different last name from them.

We are just American. And in the voting booth, our vote counts just the same. Our vote is our country’s greatest equalizer. So take action. And I don’t mean just “like” a post on Facebook. Register to vote today, and once you do, register your friends and family.

Voter registration for our community is vital because – as we've seen during the last two presidential elections – once registered, Latinos vote in percentages comparable to our counterparts. In 2012, among Latinos who registered, 82 percent voted, compared to 87 percent for the country as a whole.

The future of our country is in the hands of the 27 million eligible Latino voters. 

But we have to show up.

JW Cortés is a Marine Corps veteran and an actor on "Gotham."

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