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Elizabeth on Veterans of the Armed Forces

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 can’t.

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’ issues.

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 in Iraq.

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 withdrawal.

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 million.

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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