- Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 18:25
- Published on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 13:03
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“The mission is simply to fight for the freedoms here at home, that we fought for overseas and to bring issues to people that the government is not talking about,” Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, said.
A group of highly decorated military veterans and wives have embarked on a ten day tour through the east coast states beginning here in Virginia, then heading to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and ending in Ohio.
Colonial Beach American Legion post 148 played host to three distinguished guests, on the second stop of the tour, who are sending the message “We can do better” in response to mounting challenges facing veterans.
The non-profit, non-partisan group is spreading the word to Americans, telling people to get informed, make an educated decision and get out and vote. They want people of all walks of life to understand the issues facing America and the special challenges facing Veterans.
“The national debt,” Hegseth, a highly decorated veteran says, “has increased from $10 trillion in 2008 to $16.1 trillion in 2012, with no end in sight and very few serious solutions on the table to address it.”
Hegseth explained, “In an attempt to handle the debt and deficit of the U.S. the Budget Control Act was passed. The BCA mandated that congress come to a compromise deal to decide where spending could be cut. The Super-committee assigned to the task failed to reach a decision. This will automatically enact sequestration.
“The dirty little secret about sequestration, it doesn’t actually fix the debt and deficit trending because there is not enough defense to be cut in order to solve our spending problems,” Hegseth said.
He said that sequestration, simply put, is an indiscriminate 10% cut across the board on defense and non-defense spending. This will result in roughly $550 billion of cuts in defense and $550 billion in non-defense each category over 10 years.
“Sequestration will cause layoffs and reductions in all military programs across the country. Everybody who is in the military knows there is fat that needs to be cut in the defense budget,” Hegseth explained that the cuts need to be in areas that won’t affect the security of our country.
“In non-defense,” Hegseth said, “Sequestration will affect entitlement programs; Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. If we want them to be around for me, our kids or anyone who is not at or near retirement age then we had better reform it because they are fundamentally bankrupt, we don’t have enough money coming in to pay what we are paying out.”
When service jobs are lost here in Virginia and across the country, more military members are out of work. This creates veterans who are forced to look for work in an already crowded private sector, retire early or become dependent on other government funded entitlement programs.
The group also wants citizens to know that backlogged Veteran’s claims have doubled since 2008 and military voting is down in Virginia by 70 percent.
Steve Russell, a battalion commander in Iraq who led the unit that helped catch Saddam Hussein and author of We Got Him!; The Hunt for Saddam, spoke to the crowd next.
Russell said, “We are energized by people we meet all over the country. Our nation is still strong, we still have resilient people.”
“Too often I think what happens is we’re told that the problems are just insurmountable and that we’re not going to be able to have things the way they used to be. And that’s just not the case.”
Russell told the crowd that in the mid 1800’s, America faced big challenges, “We had in the halls of congress people trying to kill one another, we had whole sale slaughter in American fields and farms as an end result of not working out their differences. And yet at the end of it we still have a United States of America flying the stars and stripes.”
Russell added, “We have been through tough times before and we can get through tough times again but it will not be without dedication and sacrifice.”
Russell talked about his command over the thousand soldier task force that worked diligently in Takrit, Iraq to hunt down and capture Saddam Hussein.
“It was soldiers on the ground working hand in hand as regular and special operations forces that led to the capture of Saddam Hussein.”
Russell said it took about 60 raids to finally locate Hussein, “Imagine what would have happened if we said on raid 59 we’re just not going to find this guy, We’re wasting our efforts... We would have fallen short of our goal.”
The message Russell was sending is ‘never quit’. “How many times in your life have you been that close to success and having something accomplished and yet you pull out the last minute due to discouragement.
“Veterans by their nature know how to sacrifice, veterans families and those that have grown up in the veterans’ culture know how to lay themselves aside for something bigger than themselves.”
Russell said that soldiers of our current generation have accomplished every monumental task that they have been asked to do since 9-11. “Kill Osama Bin Laden, for the record the navy seals did that, done. Overthrow the Taliban government, done. Overthrow Saddam’s Ba’athist regime, replace his government and defeat his army, done. Kill or capture Saddam Hussein and bring him to justice, done.
“All of this has been done since 9-11 and yet some Americans still have the audacity to say ‘well what are we doing? Why are we taking so long?’ Really? To me, as a soldier who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, that’s just incredible that we could have such short sightedness about the things that we look at with regard with our country.”
Russell warned that our nation faces a national peril. “We don’t want veterans of this generation, after fighting a decade of war, to come home and see the nation lost, to the self indulgent, the vision-less and the divisive. We can do better!”
Russell warned the crowd that if sequestration is allowed, indiscriminate cuts within the military will put us back over 100 years.
“Are we more secure to today than we were before? Well no. If al Qaeda is on the run, they are running over our embassies.
“God bless him, President Carter, his one crowning achievement was peace with Egypt. We have seen so much come out of that with an ally that we have been able to do great things with, and now 40 years of that have now been thrown under a bus, gone!
“Other countries are in turmoil and yet the only thing we want to do as a country is apologize for a You tube video? God help us!”
Russell asked, “So what do we do now? We talk about the policy issues that affect us, national security, and the economy. We use our personal knowledge to talk with others about the issues that affect all of us. Don’t quit the fight, don’t get discouraged, keep letting your voice be heard and vote on the issues!
“It doesn’t matter who is in office, I’ve served under Democrats and Republicans, My dad is a Democrat my mom is a Republican, I love them both. That’s not the issue, the issue is what is at stake with our country.
“Don’t be idle don’t be afraid, exercise the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, which is the freedom of speech and what you believe. Put it out there, you don’t have to bullies, or be mean or rude, but challenge your friends and neighbors to get out and vote on the issues.
“If we want to see the true nature of our country survive and make it mean something for those who are the true heroes of all wars, those that do not come home from battle, the fallen, then we have to be energetic in the defense of our liberties and the defense of this country.”
Russell introduce the next speaker by saying, “No one personifies that more than Jane Horton.”
Horton, a Gold Star Wife of SPC Christopher Horton, an Army sniper killed in action on September 9, 2011 in Paktyia, Afghanistan, spoke to the crowd.
“The thing that gets me the most, emotionally, is not when I’m at home alone at night and I realize that my husband is not going to be there anymore or when I go fishing by myself when we used to go together.
“The things that make me the most emotional are when I hear people like Colonel Russell speaking and I hear what is going on in our country and the trials that America is going through right now.”
Horton held up a picture of her husband, “This is the man that pledged his life to me, he promised me that he would love me, that he would honor me and that he would make sure that I would be protected and safe for the rest of my life. Little did I know he would give his life defending you and I. Little did I know I would be standing here today, being a voice for him.
“Our country is going through some serious times, it’s the most critical time of our history. Chris not only died for his country, but he lived and breathed for it.”
Horton talked about one of Christopher’s love letters to her. In it Christopher said he felt guilty that he began to love her more than his country.
Horton made a plea to the crowd to get involved, get educated and to vote.
Horton said that when her husband was deployed she had people ask her if he came home on the weekends or if she got to go visit him in Afghanistan!
“It’s up to us to stay informed about our country and to preserve this nation, that was built on the blood of patriots, who have given their lives to protect it.”
It’s important that we pay attention to the news and what is going on in our country. It is so important that we vote.”