PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Governor Gina M. Raimondo today announced Navy Lieutenant Commander Kasim Yarn as Rhode Island's first Director of Veterans Affairs. The Rhode Island General Assembly created the Cabinet-level director position in 2011, but it had been left vacant and unfunded until recently.
"We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they and their families have made on our behalf," Raimondo said. "Kasim has spent nearly half of his life in the armed forces and more than a decade of his military career living in Rhode Island. He understands the unique challenges veterans and their families face and will be an advocate for every veteran in Rhode Island."
Yarn joined the U.S. Navy in 1991 at age 18 and reported for basic training less than 24 hours after graduating from high school. He first moved to Rhode Island in 1995, where he was assigned to Naval Station Newport and met his wife, Rosaria. While living in Rhode Island, he earned a bachelor's degree from Boston University and a master's degree from Newport's Naval War College. Yarn has completed four deployments, including missions in Europe and support missions in the Middle East as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. During his career, he has been stationed for various assignments in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Illinois, Virginia and Mississippi.
"I have spent my entire adult life serving my country and am honored to take on a new challenge serving veterans and military families in my state," Yarn said. "My top priority is to honor the service and sacrifices our veterans and military families have made by giving voice to their ideas and concerns and working together to ensure that every veteran has an opportunity to make it in Rhode Island."
Under Yarn's direction, the Division of Veterans Affairs will build additional capacity to support veterans and military families. He is committed to improving and expanding the Division's outreach capacities to help veterans from all combat eras transition into civilian life. Yarn also plans to improve access to education and training opportunities that lead to meaningful work for veterans and help them to successfully navigate services and benefits.
Yarn will officially assume the role later this spring upon retiring from the U.S. Navy, though he will begin meeting with staff immediately. In the weeks ahead, Yarn plans to launch a listening tour and hold meetings with veterans organizations across the state. Yarn will report directly to Governor Raimondo and will be a participating member of the Health and Human Services Secretariat.
"I am looking forward to working with Kasim and strengthening our coordination and collaboration with veterans organizations across the state," Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts said. "Our veterans have an important role to play in our economic growth. Under Kasim's leadership, I am confident that our veterans will have a direct line to the Governor."
"I join with all veterans and share their excitement with the recent selection of Kasim as the Director of Veterans Affairs by Governor Raimondo," Brigadier General Christopher Callahan, the Adjutant General and Commanding General of the Rhode Island National Guard, said. "This selection will enhance key relationships and improve collaboration on veterans issues throughout our state government, while reaffirming Governor Raimondo's commitment to the men and women who defend our freedom and values through their military service."
"It's extremely gratifying to recognize Kasim as the state's first Director of Veterans Affairs," House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Jan P. Malik said. "The General Assembly recognized years ago the need for attention to veterans' affairs and services at this level, and we are very grateful to Governor Raimondo for her appreciation of the importance of fulfilling that need. Rhode Island's veterans deserve to be treated as a priority of the state, and I'm glad this promise to them is finally becoming a reality."
"We are very much looking forward to working with Kasim to better serve the veterans of Rhode Island," Senate Special Legislation and Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Sen. Walter S. Felag, Jr. said. "As an experienced veteran himself, he understands the intricacies of the issues facing veterans today, and the necessity of maintaining respect, dignity and gratitude for veterans and the sacrifices they made for us. It will be a great step forward for veterans and the State of Rhode Island to have Kasim attending to the needs of the many Rhode Islanders who have proudly served."
Yarn is a decorated naval officer. His service awards include four U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, a Good Conduct Medal and several campaign and service awards. He and his wife Rosaria live in Saunderstown. They have two adult children who attended local public schools.