Veterans’ Families Cast a Vote for Change

I previously wrote an article about those who have served in our military, and the challenges facing them and their families. At that time, I interviewed Lorin Walker. We have stayed in touch, and she recently sent me this letter. It speaks for her, and two other women that she quotes in her correspondence. They are all members of what is referred to as a Gold Star Family – those who have lost loved ones who have died in service to our country.

As military family members, we were supportive, proud to serve, and prepared to sacrifice for our country and our values. We were not however, prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for artifice. We are Gold Star family members, a mother, a sister-in-law, and an adult child of service members who lost their lives in honorable service of our nation. We feel strongly about the reprehensible way in which the war in Iraq was conceived. The moment that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz sat down to plan how to sell the invasion to the public under false pretenses, we lost. We all lost. The damage done to us and to our reputation as a nation has still not been fixed.

How then, could Senator McCain begin to fix what he doesn’t even seem to acknowledge has happened? We remember all too well that the war did not begin with the surge. Senator McCain’s rhetoric demonstrates a complete denial about all of the “loss” that occurred before that — the loss to our nation’s integrity and honor. “Still further, what are we as a country losing when we continue to lay to eternal rest the funny kid on the baseball team and the girl who always knew how to get her little siblings to finish their chores? These aren’t Rambos we’re sending to do our dirty work, they are our military,” said Gold Star mother Rosemary Palmer. “We will forever wonder what each might have contributed to our world.”

We appreciated Senator McCain when he spoke up about Bush policies that were damaging.  Yet, he still does not seem to have acknowledged (even to himself) the ongoing extent of that damage or the resulting loss of public trust — which is the lifeblood of our entire system. The Iraqi budget is running a surplus while ours is in a downward spiral. When tens of thousands of Iraqis peacefully protest in the streets against long-term U.S. presence, it is time to change course. It is time to refocus and redouble our efforts on Afghanistan, not stubbornly stay in Iraq while being asked to leave. Gold Star sister-in-law, Janine Gastineau said, “The war in Afghanistan has long been overshadowed by the distraction that is the war in Iraq. Every new disaster there rubs more salt in the wounds of our grief.”

When combined with McCain’s insulting record on veterans’ issues and his tendency to be out of touch with the plight of average working Americans, it is not surprising that he is also far out of touch with the long-term loss of credibility that Iraq has caused us around the world. Only with a truly myopic definition of victory is it possible to keep talking about winning.

As the daughter of a pilot who has been missing for 37 years, I can tell you that the cost of war is decades, generational in scope. To say that we will stay until we have won, in a war that has no clear lines, an ever-shifting definition of the word win is offensive, damaging, unethical, and wrong. It is playing with words to fuel a political campaign. What must we have won to say that we have won, and what more will we have to lose?

By stark comparison to Senator McCain, Senator Obama will take the long view. He will look before he leaps. He will not sacrifice American lives lightly or use force to prove a point. He will restore an honor to the American Presidency that is based on mutual trust. He will respect our service members, their families, and the rest of the world. He will engender respect from around the globe and from the troops that will call him Commander in Chief.

And finally, there is the question of patriotism. When the political chips are down or policies are failing, those who raise questions or who point out failures are accused of being unpatriotic. We are not unpatriotic people. As one widow said to me, “I was a proud military wife for ten years. I resent anyone who questions my patriotism, or anyone else’s, simply because we question a flawed doctrine that endangers precious lives. I would never back down from defense of my country in the presence of a genuine threat. However, I cannot condone the duplicitous politics of McCain and Palin. As a survivor, I am a witness to the pain that plagues the families left behind.”

We are Gold Star Family Members, true patriots. We are standing up for all that is great about this nation that we love. We are standing with a leader who has inspired the nation and the world, a patriot who will command with authority and lead with intelligence and foresight. We will proudly cast our votes for Barack Obama on Tuesday, November 4th.

Janine Gastineau’s brother-in-law and her husband’s only sibling, Helge Philipp Boes, lost his life in Afghanistan in early 2003 during his second tour of duty as an Intelligence officer with the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center

Rosemary Palmer of Bay Village, Ohio, is the mother of Lance Corporal Edward “Augie” Schroeder II, who was killed in action near Haditha, Iraq, on August 3, 2005

Lorin Walker, Vice President of CLW-VETPAC, is the daughter of Capt. Bruce C. Walker, whose OV-10A Bronco was shot down in Quang Bihn Province, Vietnam, on April 7, 1972. He has been Missing in Action since 11 days later (two days before Ms. Walker’s 1st birthday), when a rescue attempt was aborted as Capt. Walker was surrounded by the North Vietnamese Army.

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