One of the best kept secrets on the American political scene is the true political power of the country's veterans.
Oh, you'll see candidates and office holders making the annual pilgrimage to American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars conferences and conventions, pledging support for this or that program, but that only tells a superficial tale.
America now has about 25 million veterans, the vast majority of whom are post-World War II, most in the Vietnam generation, but with strong numbers from the Korean War era, the entire Cold War era, the Gulf War, various smaller operations and incursions, and growing numbers from the War on Terror.
Yet the combined membership of the major veterans organizations, like the VFW, Legion, Disabled American Veterans, AmVets and the Vietnam Veterans of America, taken together amounts to far less than a third of the total. So when a politician seeking veteran support makes a pitch to the organized vets, he is hitting only one of the many outlets that are necessary to really galvanize veteran support.
Here is where the power comes in. Most of the organized veterans groups also have auxiliaries, for their spouses, and "Sons of" organizations for offspring. When these groups are added in, the organized veterans really start showing some political muscle.
Now it gets better. Even though most veterans don't belong to an organized group, they do watch and listen to the leaders in the veteran community and they are aware of what is happening around them, and more to the point, to them.
Veterans by their very nature are aware and involved. We served our country. We vote. We speak our minds. We have been doing this since we were very young, and most continue to do it til death.
Not only do we have solid numbers, but most of us have a spouse or significant other, plus at least one person we influence through our experiences and positions on the state of our community and country. When all of these are taken together, the veterans' voice in American politics can add up, directly and indirectly, to far more than 70 million votes - if we are galvanized, if we are engaged, and if we act.
That is about 10 million more votes than George Bush received in 2004. His total in that election was the highest in US history. Granted, not every single one of us will vote on a given election day, and not every one of us will vote the same. But the power we project if a majority of us are engaged and on the same page is simply awesome.
Why does this matter to the Gathering Of Eagles, the vigil planned for March 17 in Washington, D.C. to protect our monuments from vandalism by pro-terrorism forces who are marching on the Pentagon that day? Because there are a number of efforts underway to draw veterans away from that vigil, some well-intentioned, some which I believe are deliberate acts to minimize the veterans' presence in DC.
Since the Gathering Of Eagles was first conceived, after pro-terrorism forces vandalized our nation's Capitol at a rally in January, it has been growing exponentially. It is billed as and being organized as a vigil to protect our monuments, especially the Vietnam War Memorial, to support our troops serving in the War on Terror and show support for our elected leaders from the President on down who believe we can win this war, and will if Congress doesn't undermine the military.
We hear of new attempts by left-leaning Congressmen and Senators to sabotage the military effort on a near daily basis now, and if the current generation of warriors is to enjoy the continued support of the American populace and its government, these efforts must be quashed. To do this, the Gathering of Eagles must come across as a successful united effort.
The key to success lies in showing up in massive numbers. I realize that there are many who would like to join us in DC but who for many reasons can not. I realize that many of these people want to show their support in some way, even though they are not on scene.
But we must remember one thing about the pro-terrorist forces we are facing. In the Vietnam era they were the pro-communist forces. Many of them are still involved, and are supporting the terrorists because they believe eventually that will help their cause whatever it may be.
But when they first started protesting in the 1960s, they didn't call for nationwide observances, they went to one city where their numbers looked impressive. They appeared to be representing far more Americans than they ever did, but they had the media on their side, and their cause was given more political muscle than it deserved.
The end result was a decision by our Congress to abandon Southeast Asia, which culminated in the communist overthrow of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and the deaths of some 4 million innocents at the hands of the communists. Then the very forces in Congress and the media who helped bring about this travesty shifted the blame to the American military and said the Southeast Asian holocaust was the fault of the Vietnam veterans.
For reasons that are obscure at best, and frankly make no sense to me at all, the pro-communist forces in the US consider this a victory and want to repeat it in the War on Terror.
The Gathering of Eagles will put a huge crimp in their plans if the gathering is successful. We actually have the numbers that the pro-terrorist forces would like to have. We have the votes, but we must prove this by showing up in person.
Thus, for as much as I agree with people showing their support across the country, the gathering in DC must be the only formal vigil, and it must be the one that is attended by every single person who can get there.
If we are successful, and all indications are that we will be, we will have opportunities in the future to organize multiple city demonstrations. But we can benefit from the model developed by the pro-terrorism, pro-communist forces. Gather in DC on March 17, overcome the Mainstream Media's refusal to cover our vigil by sheer force of numbers, show our elected and appointed leaders that we have political muscle, media savvy and we mean business.
If veterans and those who support us want a real voice in what is happening in Washington, if we want to avoid any future debacles such as recently happened to our recovering warriors in Walter Reed hospital, if we want the media and the politicians to pay heed to us and give us results not lip service, we must go to DC on March 17.
Once the gathering is underway, those who can't go to Washington can go to the intersection of the two busiest streets in their area, hold up a sign stating "Support Gathering of Eagles" and make sure the public sees you.
But prior to that, and far more important, is the requirement that everyone who can, goes to DC and stands up for our fellow veterans.
The rest will fall into place naturally. But first, we must gather in DC.
Thursday, March 08, 2007