Name: Erica Watkins
Office Sought: State House of Representatives District 68 

1. Have you ever served in the US Armed Forces? If so, what were your branch, rank and years of service?

I served in the Oklahoma National Guard from July 2007 to October 2017. I was a Sergeant (ES) at my time of discharge. I deployed with the Oklahoma Guard in 2011 to Laghman Province Afghanistan as a Female Engagement Team Leader. The FET was a brand new asset used by the Army, several years after the Marines began to see the benefit. My unit was the first in both OKNG and Army history to utilize FET in a combat environment. Here is an article about one of the many missions I was on.

2. Do you have any connections with veterans or active duty service members, including but not limited to family ties?

My husband is currently a Sergeant First Class (E7) in the OKNG had has been an infantryman for 21 years. I am a part of many veterans social and advocacy groups and am currently Vice Commander for Veterans Defending Democracy. I maintain close contact with many of the people I served with, and the FET still get together regularly.

3. What do you consider the most important issues facing veterans and military families?

Access to VA healthcare, not limited to burden of proof being placed solely on the veteran, veterans mental health services including continuity of care and long wait times. There are tens of thousands of unhoused veterans. It is extremely problematic that hundreds of thousands of Americans volunteer to serve, and if they are sent to war and broken physically and/or mentally – there is a very superficial level of help made available once they return home, and accessing that help is often plagued by red tape and other barriers. Lastly, sexual assault in the military is still a huge issue, especially to women who are serving (but not limited to women). While there have been some improvements in addressing MST in the military – there is a culture issue which still lingers and even one instance of SA by a fellow service member is unacceptable.

4. In what ways can you be helpful to veterans and military families if elected to office?

I want to be a voice for veterans who feel abandoned by the country they served and I will personally respond to every veteran that contacts me. Republican politicians constantly say “support our troops” and weaponize patriotism, while consistently voting against pro-veteran legislation. Due to skyrocketing cost of living and stagnant wages, I think programs to give higher education to veterans and their dependents is essential. I would like to introduce legislation to address the homelessness in Oklahoma, better access to mental health care for ALL but especially veterans and making VA enrollment easier. Lastly, the restrictive reproducing health policies and attacks on the 2SLGBTQIA+ community harm veterans who are members of those marginalized communities. I saw the impacts of religious extremist rule in my time in Afghanistan and I will do everything in my power to fight back against the extremist attacks on vulnerable groups that are happening via legislation.

Let me know if you need anything else!

Erica Watkins
Candidate for HD 68