Elizabeth on Veterans of the Armed
It’s tough for me to take a position and to put my
name on it. I’d much prefer to remain anonymous in the hope that I
might avoid offending anyone. This is how I was brought up,
listening to the eternal injunction from my mother that, as a
female, I was meant to “be sweet” at all costs.
Some background to this position paper: I am the daughter of two
World War II veterans. My mother was an Army nurse, attaining the
rank of captain (She was Captain Anne Rivelle) before she finished
her term of service. My father was, at his retirement, an Army
major, although he didn’t attain this rank until he spent some time
in the US Reserves after the war. He liked to say that it took him
twenty years to outrank my mother, which was the truth.
My father served with General Patton’s army during the war, coming
through Morocco and up Italy. My mother served as a surgical nurse.
Despite her wish to go overseas, she was forced to remain stateside
when an automobile accident blinded her in one eye. My parents met
shortly after the war in what was then called Camp (now Fort)
Campbell, Kentucky. I have pictures of them in their army uniforms
in my library at home, along with their love letters tied with a red
ribbon, which I found in my father’s footlocker once both my parents
had passed away. They died within three years of each other, my
father spending the last eleven or so months of his life in the VA
hospital in Menlo Park, California, where he passed away from a
condition that looked like and acted like Lou Gehrig’s disease but
was called primary lateral sclerosis.
I’ve always had a great deal of respect for veterans of the armed
forces. While I did not believe in the cause of the Vietnam War and
while I do not believe our presence in Iraq was ever justified by
any evidence of a connection to Al Queda or the presence of weapons
of mass destruction, I have not felt animosity toward the troops
sent to do battle there. Indeed, I’ve always assumed that those
bumper stickers asking me to “support our troops” have meant what I
believe it means to support our armed service personnel: to keep
them as safe as possible on the job; to make certain they are
prepared to fight if necessary; to be sure they are well-trained
before and adequately rested between their deployments; to give them
the latest and best equipment available; to bring them home as soon
as possible; and to take care of them once they get here. I can’t
imagine what else it might mean to support the troops. Literally, I
Only one of our two candidates is a military man. John McCain’s time
in the military and his period of imprisonment ask for our respect,
and I willingly give it to him. But beyond the issue of respect
that’s owed to every member of the armed services, there is also the
careful consideration that must be given to any man or woman running
for president because the truth of the matter is that more than a
military career is needed.
I’ve always believed that one’s past actions are a fair indication
of what one’s future actions will be. Thus, I spent some time
investigating John McCain’s votes on the issues affecting veterans.
I share these votes with you now, not to malign John McCain but to
allow you to ask yourself what you mean when you support the
American Armed Services, as I suspect you do.
What follows, then, is a list of Senator McCain’s votes on veterans’
May 2008: Senator McCain declared opposition to an expanded version
of the GI Bill, providing tuition and expenses at a four-year
university for anyone who served three years in the military after
9/11. When the bill came up for a vote, Senator McCain did not vote.
July 2007: Senator McCain voted against a plan to draw down troops
March 2007: Senator McCain did not vote on a bill requiring a start
in the draw down of troops within 120 days.
June 2006: Senator McCain voted against a resolution that Bush begin
to start withdrawing troops with no timeline involved in that
May 2006: Senator McCain voted against an amendment providing $20
million to the Department of Veteran Affairs for health facilities.
April 2006: Senator McCain was one of only 13 senators to vote
against $430 million for outpatient care and treatment for veterans.
March 2006: Senator McCain voted against increasing veterans’
medical services funding by $1.5 billion, money that would have come
from closing corporate tax loopholes.
March 2004: Senator McCain voted against creating a reserve fund to
allow for an increase in veterans’ medical care by $1.8 billion,
money that would have come from closing corporate tax loopholes.
October 2003: Senator McCain voted to table an amendment by Senator
Dodd calling for an additional $322 million for safety equipment for
the forces in Iraq, money which would come from reducing the amount
provided to companies doing reconstruction work in Iraq by $322
Young men and women who join the Armed Forces of our country—as my
parents did—put their lives on the line. It is my belief that we
support our troops by taking care of them before, during, between,
and after their deployments. It is my belief that this is the least
we owe them.
I’m not sure what Senator John McCain believes, based on his votes
in the US Senate. I certainly have heard what he’s said about the
military. But saying is one thing. Doing is another.
- Elizabeth George
Whidbey Island, Washington
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