Tommy Marquez - Fellow
Tommy Marquez holds associate’s degrees in child development and social behavior science, and he served in the United States Navy for just under a decade. But as proud as he is of those achievements, Marquez says they pale in comparison to the fulfillment he gets now as the Veterans Caseworker and Constituents Relations Representative for Congressman Duncan Hunter in California’s 52nd Congressional District.
“I haven’t felt this much pride in anything I’ve done so far,” Marquez says. “Nothing like it in the world.”
Marquez, who earned his position as a fellow in the House of Representatives’ Wounded Warrior Program, says he speaks to about 80 to 90 constituents every day in addition to the commanding officers at the district’s military bases. “It’s important to reach out and see if they need assistance with anything that Congressman Hunter’s office can help with,” he says.
But the most rewarding part of Marquez’s job is acting as an advocate on behalf of the district’s veteran constituents, many of whom often look to him for guidance and support when it comes to navigating the at times overwhelming process of claiming benefits they’ve earned by serving their country, such as G.I. Bill and service-connected disability payments.
Things got so complicated for one veteran, Marquez says, that the former serviceman was about to be evicted from his home. “He’d lost hope in the process,” Marquez says. “Through my channels, I was able to find out that the VA had not only received his application, but they were almost finished with it.” Marquez helped the vet start receiving his monthly benefits and retroactive pay, which allowed him to keep his home. “When he told me thank you,” Marquez says, “it was just the best feeling.”
Marquez says he’s inspired by his predecessor in Congressman Hunter’s office, Mac, a Navy retiree who recently passed away. “I try my best to live up to his legacy,” Marquez says. He’s also driven by the memory of a former high school guidance counselor who thought Marquez’s goals were too ambitious. “I told her I wanted to be in the Navy and go to college, and she said I should be a mechanic,” he says. “It’s always encouraged me to prove her wrong.”
Marquez, who has just been admitted to San Diego State University, hopes to eventually earn his master’s degree in child development and then a law degree. He also plans to begin mentoring youth in the area. “I want to tell them that they wrote me off, too,” he says, “I came from the inner city, I made it, and you can too.”
But for now, Marquez is happy right where he is, helping his fellow veterans in the district. “I’ve been where they’ve been,” he says, “and it feels so good to be helping.”