With the exception of Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a former Marine who is often mentioned as a possible candidate for Governor in 2010, Connecticut's political establishment boycotted, or perhaps I should say, was AWOL from a rally at New Haven's Veterans' Memorial Park Saturday.
The rally was arranged by former Marine James Bancroft to focus attention on repeated acts of vandalism against the park's monuments to Connecticut's veterans. Bancroft worked both the mainstream media and the Internet to publicize the event, which drew a moderate crowd of veterans and our supporters.
Blumenthal may have been the lone politico with the good sense to be there, but he also promised to see that crimes of desecration such as have occurred in New Haven and across the country are made felonies. I like that. So did those who attended the rally.
Blumenthal scored a grand slam today. He showed up, and he promised action. Based on his history, Connecticut's veterans can justifiably expect him to be true to his word.
The rally was sponsored by several pro-troop organizations including Gathering of Eagles, Eagles Up, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Members of the Guardian Angels, many of them veterans too, also were out in force to support the rally and provide security.
Jim, my brother Marine, asked me to speak and I was proud to join a slate of speakers from the sponsoring organizations. The point was made repeatedly that acts of desecration are despicable and misguided at best. Below is the speech I delivered:
WHAT DID WE EXPECT?
We are here today to express our outrage and draw attention to the ongoing desecration of veterans' memorials in New Haven and nationwide.
We are disgusted, dismayed, and disgruntled. We are angry.
But in the midst of our anger we must stop for a minute and ask ourselves, "What did we expect?"
We live in a country where less than 1 percent of the total population is serving in the military, holding the line against anarchy, terrorism, Islamo-fascism and resurgent communism. For this, the military is pilloried in the media on a daily basis.
We live in a country where less than 7 percent of the total population ever served in the military. And the bulk of America's veterans came home after serving to a country that either ignored the sacrifices of the Cold War and Korean War veterans, or assaulted the Vietnam veterans.
What did we expect?
We live in a country that knows about protests against the Marines in Berkeley and the bombing in Times Square, but hardly anything at all about dozens upon dozens of other similar incidents across the country. We live in a country that knows nearly nothing about the desecration of veterans' monuments nationally, including the Vietnam Memorial, that have been sprayed with caustic substances or paint, drenched in indelible ink, or smashed to pieces.
We live in a country where the US Congress shows complete disdain for two generations of veterans as it refuses to issue a Cold War Victory Medal, claiming it is too costly. In reality, Congress won't issue this medal because it would also recognize that 45 years of service in Korea, Vietnam, the Berlin Wall, along the Iron Curtain, the Bamboo Curtain and far flung outposts guarding and defending our freedoms were all part of one large major victory over world wide communism, not separate scattered, unsuccessful actions.
We live in a country where politicians routinely court the veteran vote and just as routinely forget us when they get elected. We live in a country, and are speaking in a city where illegal aliens have more rights than veterans who served.
What did we expect?
We live in a country where the bureaucracy that surrounds the Veterans Administration is so maze-like that veterans who are rated with service connected disabilities do not automatically receive treatment or compensation. Once a veteran has proved he or she served honorably there are only two questions that ever should be asked when they enter a VA facility. "Can I see your ID please?" and "How may I help you?"
We live in a country where year after year Congress fawns over the veterans while at the same time making treatment and compensation more difficult. But ask what Congress gets for medical benefits and retirement after spending one term in Washington.
You'll note that in reference to Congress I used the word "spending" not "serving."
What did we expect?
We live in a country where the excesses of the 60s are celebrated and looked back on with nostalgia. That is the era that gave us a multi-trillion dollar war on drugs that has no light at the end of the tunnel, and now is impacting a third generation of Americans.
That era's "free love" gave us a plethora of new sexually transmitted diseases, many that are drug resistant, some that are fatal, all of which create an enormous burden on our national health care system. Yet the people who created this quagmire are seen as giants of that era while the veterans who saved the world from communism are disparaged.
Meanwhile the media trumpets the cost of our military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as though those are wasted dollars. The cost to support our military is not the cost of war - it is the price of freedom.
This is the same media that routinely banners American intelligence gathering methods and secrets on its front pages and evening news shows with impunity. The same media that ignores Congress openly discussing military strategies and tactics, even calling press conferences to disparage our military, all the while saying they "support the troops," they just don't like the war.
This is the same media that ignores the studies that show the statements made on the floor of Congress have a direct impact on the casualty rate in the war zones. These posers, embellishers, and collaborators should be on trial for treason not labeled as media heroes.
What the hell did we expect?
I don't like the conditions that brought us here today. None of us do.
But we do have recourse. I mentioned some numbers a minute ago, percentages of the American population who serve or have served.
Those numbers may not seem huge when compared to the overall population, but those numbers can impact any election from the local to the national if we put our heads together and vote collectively.
Nationally there are 25 million veterans. In Connecticut there are 300,000. If we vote together, along with our spouse or significant other, and influence just one other person, in Connecticut that equates to 900,000 votes. In the last election, the governor was elected with just over 700,000 votes. See my point?
Here is what I suggest. When you go back to your homes today, check out who is running for office in your town. Make a point to meet them, whether it is for local, state or national office.
Look in their eyes, shake their hands, ask the tough questions, and see what kind of response you get. If they are just talking, you'll know it. If they are sincere, that will ring true. We want people in office who understand that without the military, without the veterans, there would be no America, and all the other things they argue about would be moot. We want people in office who truly represent us, not just take pictures with us for their campaigns, and then forget us when they are elected.
After you have met these candidates, write a letter. Address it to the veterans in your community and express your concerns, straight out, no tiptoeing. Remember, we don't need the politicians, they have proved that many times over. But they need us.
Send it to the weekly or monthly newspaper that circulates in your town. Do it again a few weeks later and again a few weeks after that. Do it all through the election cycle, and make sure the veterans in your community know that they are, or are not, being adequately represented.
If we work together we can do this! If we make national defense our number one priority and vote as a bloc, in our towns, our state, and our nation, we can bring about effective change that will positively impact not just us, but the entire country.
And if you have a politician in your community who gives lip service to support for the military and veteran community, but is really just full of hot air, go to their campaign headquarters on election night, when they have lost to someone who really does look out for veterans. You will find that candidate alone, despondent, wondering what happened to their house of cards.
Look the loser right straight in the eye, and ask:
"What did you expect?"
Saturday, April 05, 2008