The National Military Family Association has officially welcomed its new chief executive officer and executive director, Ashish Vazirani.
Vazirani joins NMFA with the unique perspective of coming from a multi-generational military family, having a lengthy background of public service and wanting to continue the goals of the organization’s preceding executive director, Joyce Raezer.
“If I reflect on the things that Joyce has done is, what I’d like to do is make sure I continue to add to that leadership that is based on advocating for military families,” Vazirani said. “I think that we continue to be the — I’ll call it — fearless advocates for military families; that we’re always the ones who, in the meeting, will make sure to ask the question, ‘Well, what about the families?’”
The former Navy lieutenant’s experience with military families starts with being raised by a stepdad who was a Vietnam Era combat-wounded Marine. He says that his dad’s public service continued after he left the military when he became an advocate for sensory-disabled veterans like himself. Then, when Vazirani chose to join the Navy’s submarine force, he would collect similar leadership skills his father had and take that into his own civilian life.
“I think when I reflect on the time that I was in the submarine force, when we went to sea as a crew of 120 something people, one, you just recognize the importance of teamwork and the importance of relying on individuals who have expertise in particular areas and how those experts come together and coordinate as a team. Because you can’t just get the mission done by yourself,” Vazirani said.
Leveraging NMFA’s established team is something he does plan to do, as he recognizes the organization’s advocacy success is based around its teamwork. Plus, he intends to continue paying his service forward.
“One of the things I’ve heard … is this notion that military families when they leave the military, they feel disconnected … I think there are ways to find that fulfillment, just through a different avenue, right? It’s not going to be because you wear a uniform. It’s not going to be because you enter an area of danger, but it does still require the same character and values that made those people successful in the military.”
For veterans, Vazirani suggests finding some sort of service to one’s community whether it be through a church, synagogue, school or even a neighbor. For the new CEO, volunteerism and work after the Navy has taken him from the USO, Operation Homefront to the Armed Services YMCA. But when he discovered Raezer was retiring, he says it wasn’t his intention to succeed her because he was very happy with ASYMCA. Ultimately, though, he saw an opportunity to add value to an organization he held in high esteem.
In a similar sentiment, Chairman of the Board Tina Jonas stated in a press release announcing Vazirani’s appointment, “As part of a multi-generational family, Vazirani embodies the commitment and promise the National Military Family Association has had to offer military families for 50 years.”
While Vazirani is taking forbearance in stating specific priorities with what he wishes to do with NMFA until he gets some experience under his belt, he does intend to build upon the company’s pre-established priorities starting with being an advocate for all ranks and branches. Additionally, he aims to help fill gaps and needs of those military families.
“I think the other priority is to make sure that we understand and prioritize the programs or services that may help to fill gaps where, maybe, the current programs that are provided by the department, or current policies where those things, and where there are gaps in the needs and requirements of families, where should the National Military Families Association play a role?” he said.
No matter where his journey with NMFA takes him, it will always be grounded in his personal life including his son who is currently serving as a second lieutenant in the Marines.
“I think the thing that I’d like military families to know is that, in a sense I’m different from them because we all have our own unique family experiences, but I’m not different from them in that I have three generations of service in my family.”