Andrew Yang Inspired Her to Tour Iowa in a Jeep

Source Composite Sean Culligan/OZY

Why you should care

Because hers is a story of why voters care enough to put their lives on hold for a candidate they believe in.

Who Cares: OZY's 2020 election coverage focuses on who votes and why. Who Cares: OZY's 2020 election coverage focuses on who votes and why.

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Heidi, 37

Des Moines, Iowa

My day was amazing. Very otherworldly.

I woke up in South Dakota, which is where I live. And then I drove to Omaha to pick up Russell Toll, who is another Veteran for Humanity — that’s what we call ourselves, after Andrew Yang’s motto “Humanity First” — and who speaks with me. From there, we drove to Des Moines, for the Liberty and Justice Celebration, where each of the presidential candidates gathered thousands of supporters in the first caucus state. It was a total of six hours spent driving. Andrew was hosting a giant concert, Yangapalooza, with Weezer, and a march to the event.

I really discovered Andrew in June. But I thought: I’m a mom of a 15-year-old son, I’m taking college classes, I can’t get involved.

But then when some financial aid got messed up, I jumped on this opportunity. Now I drive to Iowa every other week for Andrew Yang in my Jeep. I put a Yang 2020 decal on it, because I thought I could literally be a mobile billboard for him. A lot of times, Andrew doesn’t get news coverage. So I’ve been hanging up these flyers that say “Have you seen this man?” And it’s a picture of Andrew, and it says: “Missing from MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, ABC News.” It has little pull-off tabs with an 800 number you can call to hear his stump speech. I stop at every Casey’s General Store and drop off pamphlets and cards on the bulletin boards there.

Since I live in South Dakota, we don’t really have a voice in the election process. Historically, Iowa sets the tone for the rest of the country, and that’s why I’m here. The reactions have mostly been good. I’m not someone who feels like she can canvass, go knock on doors, confront people and talk with them. But if there is anything I can talk about, it’s Andrew. It’s helped me overcome a lot of my anxiety over talking to people.

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Heidi and her Andrew Yang Jeep.

Something that’s always stressed me out, having a 15-year-old, is thinking about sending him off into the world without support. But with Andrew’s Freedom Dividend — a $1,000-per-month universal basic income for every adult — kids like mine can have a start to their lives.

I joined the Navy when I was 19 years old. I didn’t have many other options. I got a full scholarship to college, but — as one of 11 children with no car, living in rural southern Louisiana — I didn’t have a way to literally get there. My only option, my mom told me, was to drop out of school, work at a bank and meet a husband. That was the moment when I said I had to do something else.

I’m proud of my four years of service. I was on a guided missile destroyer in Norfolk, Virginia, and worked at Joint Forces Command. But the military is still not a great place for women. I experienced it firsthand. The military has a problem; it’s finally recognizing it with a label: military sexual trauma. The environment produces, I hate to say it, rape culture.

After my service, I lived in about six states, picking up and moving somewhere else whenever I could. A lot of it, now they are telling me, was post-traumatic stress disorder. I had another incident a few years ago. While seeking treatment at the VA, I was re-traumatized in an elevator by a male veteran. And so I spent a lot of time after that very numb. Not connected to anything. And Andrew Yang talks to that. He is really big on mental health. He is really big about families. And he talks about how many of our systems tend to dehumanize people. A lot of the VA’s systems do that. 

This woke me up. It’s a lot for me to be out here. But I fight through that stuff because this matters. And as a veteran, we are mission-driven. I have a mission again.

And so I drive to Iowa, and do things I didn’t think I could even do, because I believe in Andrew that much. And then I go home every other week, and I have a panic attack. But I realize I’m going to be out of my comfort zone for a long time, and I am willing to do that because I believe in this.

At Yangapalooza, I was overwhelmed at first, because I get nervous around large groups. We were all standing in the rain at the concert. Andrew knows me, so he took off running, gave me a big hug. I was shivering. He reached into his pocket, took out his hand warmers and tried to give them to me. It was a very human thing. Then we marched across the bridge, which was so exciting. It felt like for the first time Iowa was really seeing us. I’m one person doing my part. And this felt like a big part. It felt like Andrew had arrived.

Editor’s note: Heidi requested her last name be omitted to protect her safety and privacy as she drives around Iowa.

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