Sunday, November 15, 2009
Friday, September 26, 2008
BY ROBERT DIAMOND
Friday, September 26th 2008, 4:00 AM
As soon as Thursday night, Barack Obama and John McCain are scheduled to meet for their first presidential debate. They will talk about national security, Iraq, Afghanistan, the strains on our military readiness and, I hope, they will talk about our veterans.
As both an Iraq war veteran and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, I am intimately familiar with John McCain's valiant and honorable military service. McCain, as far as I am concerned, is a true American hero. Unfortunately, his heroism in the Vietnam War has been allowed to morph into a patently false "record" - ceaselessly touted by his campaign - that McCain is a strong advocate for veterans. That could not be further from the truth.
Earlier this month, McCain delivered his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention - the most important speech of his long political career. In a nearly 50-minute address, with millions of Americans watching, McCain could not find 10 seconds to talk about one of the most important issues facing this country - caring for our returning veterans. He did not mention the word "veteran" once.
In fact, the only time the issue of veterans came up during that speech was when McCain was interrupted by protesters from the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. McCain dismissed them as "ground noise and static."
Yes, that was just the convention - and, you might argue, more about symbolism than substance. But it only gets worse when one looks at McCain's voting record. The nation's largest Iraq veterans organization, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonpartisan organization, grades members of Congress on how they vote on legislation that "affect[s] troops, veterans or military families." This includes votes on such issues as expanded health care services for veterans and reservists, military death benefits, traumatic brain injury research and adequate rest for service members between deployments, just to name a few.
Of the 155 votes tracked by IAVA since 9/11, John McCain received a grade of "D." While no senator earned a grade of "A," Barack Obama got a "B ."
A separate veterans group, Disabled American Veterans - with over 1.4 million members - maintains a "Federal Vote Scorecard." DAV is also a nonpartisan organization and says the purpose of its scorecard is "simply to report the facts - how [legislators] voted on issues important to us and our members."
McCain's score in the last Congress? 20%. Obama's? 80%. (In the previous two Congresses, McCain's record goes a little bit higher - to 25% and 33%, respectively; Obama's is 92% for 2006; in 2004 he was not yet elected to the Senate.)
What led to these scores? Among other things, McCain's vote in March of 2006 against increasing veterans' medical services funding by $1.5 billion by closing corporate tax loopholes. Obama voted for it. Another was in April 2006, when McCain was one of only 13 senators to vote against an amendment to add $430 million for the Department of Veteran Affairs for medical services for outpatient care and treatment for veterans. Obama voted in favor of it.
But McCain says he has a perfect record on veterans issues. He said so on the campaign trail. FactCheck.org decided to examine this claim. What did it find? "[McCain] said that he had 'a perfect voting record from organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion.' But we called both of those groups, and they told us they don't even release congressional scorecards. In fact, the American Legion's constitution prohibits it."
My favorite was McCain's opposition to the new GI Bill that President Bush - after originally threatening to veto - signed into law this past June 30. The new GI Bill will cover veterans for the full cost of education at any public school in the country and many private schools (it's capped at the cost of the most expensive public school in the respective state). It provides upfront tuition payments directly to the school, a book/supply stipend of $1,000 per year and a monthly living stipend.
When it came time to vote on this legislation, McCain didn't show up. He stayed in California to attend a fund-raiser.
I would never challenge John McCain's proud record of service to his country. But his voting record has not helped address the shoddy state of our VA system, the lack of preparation to handle today's combat wounded who have returned home with blast-trauma injuries or the failure to provide adequate posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) screening and treatment for all our service members.
It's time for Americans to look past rhetoric and biography. In the past seven years, this country has sent our military to fight in two major wars. John McCain has stood up to defend those wars. He has yet to stand up for veterans once they've returned home.
Diamond, a native New Yorker, is the chairman of New York Veterans for Obama. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is a fellow with the Truman National Security Project.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
ESPN is honoring the five-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, by telling stories of 2 soldiers and their families. Their life before and after war and what tolls war takes including life. These are great stories and its great to see ESPN doing such a great thing by honoring these guys. One tells of a Soldier who lost his arm and returned home, the other didn't make it home and left behind a wife and daughter.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
This is my own view as a person, an individual. This is not the view of the military or a Soldier, my view as an American, taxpaying citizen. (Just making myself clear and covering bases)
I have watched the Democratic Primaries slide back and forth from Barack to Hillary and then last night my biggest worry/fear came true and I have this nervous feeling about it. John McCain is now the Republican Presidential candidate. WOW he's worse than what we have now for a President and if he wins the whole thing we are in for another long 4 years and with the way things are now what will our future hold as Americans? It's honestly scary to me, I mean look at the issues we are facing now recession is looking like the wave of the future, gas prices, the price of everything is going up and most important of all the war. McCain is a true supporter of keeping us in Iraq and I personally disagree with that.
It's time for an end and time for a change and if its Barack or Hillary I will vote either way but we do not need another Bush in the White House we need someone who will make this country better and lead us to a better future. If you have children or grandchildren you need to vote for a change in the future. McCain will not give Americans change it will be the hell we've been living for the last 8 years. I want my daughter to grow up like I grew up not worrying about problems and current issues that adults worry about. These days too many children ask if we will be at war forever, that's all they know because that's all they see and here.
I'm voting for the best candidate the person who will make the biggest change in America and the biggest change me. I do not care if they are white, black, red yellow or green. I don't care if they are male or female I just want someone who will lead us in the right direction for the right reasons.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
I was planning on waiting awhile to do another Blog until after I started back to work. I decided last night I couldn't wait to get a few things off my chest. I have seen and heard a few things that I just wouldn't let go without saying a few things about it, because I knew you guys would give me a few words of encouragement and would be just as upset as I was when I experienced my recent rants.
I guess there are somethings I shouldn't gripe about or complain about but I feel I've earned the right to gripe about this and I've been very disappointed in all the people back home after all the wonderful support I got from all of you guys. I guess I got spoiled by you guys, sending all the kind words and great encouraging emails. I just returned home and things were so different with how the people treat the military and how they show their appreciation.
Here are my examples..
My disappointments started the day I flew home, we were sitting in the airport at Colorado Springs and one of the Flight Attendants asked if we were coming back from Iraq. I leaned over and told her "No we just spent a year in Afghanistan and where heading home." She leaned back over to ask me without skipping a beat "whats going on over there?" WOW I was stunned and when I started to explain a little thing called 9/11 an elderly couple stepped in and proceeded to tell her what was going on over there and did so ever so kindly!!
A few hours later I landed in Oklahoma and was as happy as I could be for the next few minutes. Well let me back up a few days, my wife didn't know what day I was actually planning on coming home. So I wanted to surprising my wife and daughter. I had made all the plans including renting a car and driving down to Ardmore to surprise Jodi and Bayleigh. Well now I can fast forward to the day I landing in OK. I was greeted at the airport by one of my best friends Jake. It was great being able to see a friendly face as soon as I landed in beautiful Oklahoma. I grabbed my bags and headed to get my rental car from a "wonderful" company Enterprise. I spoke with the clerk at the front desk and he started getting me ready to head on my way.. Well that wouldn't be the case, after showing my ID the clerk as for 2 utility bills because I was returning the car to the Ardmore Enterprise lot. I stood there wondering what 2 utility bills I would use considering I had just got back from Afghanistan. I tried my best to get past the request and after 15 minutes of no help from the clerk I lost my cool. The week long trip home and spending the day flying from Colorado was just a bit much and I lost my cool. But please give me a break where do you expect me to get a bill or how could you even expect me to bring one or expect to show one. Maybe I was just stressed or to excited to get home..
After the next few days passed and I got home I would notice things more and more, one day it was the local paper The Daily Ardmoreite. They had several articles about the Iraq War and how people needed to support the Troops over there and how so much needs to be focused on Iraq. A couple days later in the same paper a local car dealership was taking thank you cards and care packages to send to Troops in Iraq.
Please forgive me if I sound a bit jealous or even mean or just whatever you think I might mean. I am having a huge problem right now with all of the support for Iraq and not an ounce for Afghanistan. I know its an American War and Soldiers are Soldiers but Iraq is not Afghanistan and by far not the same War by any means. We need to be in Afghanistan and I'm leaving that one there.
Anytime a Soldier is home its from Iraq every time a Soldier dies its in Iraq, every time a Soldier gets deployed its to Iraq. There is another War out there and we have our Americans losing their life over there as well. I can't see how things are so forgotten and just passed over like there is nothing going on.
I'm not sure if these Wars are turning into Vietnam but things are not the way they should be. These last 2 weekends have really bothered me and just adding more to my rants and raves.. The Memorial Day weekend was more about sales at the mall and parties than it was about remembering our Hero's. My Mom planned a welcome home party for me just for that weekend and it seemed that there was nothing going on around town to remember the Troops. This last weekend just pushed me over the edge when my wife and I went to a concert. While we were at the concert Jodi decided to ask one of the ushers if there was anything they could do since I just got back home a couple weeks ago. The lady was nice with Jodi and got back with us to inform us that she told the Promotions Director and he would see what he could do for us. So they allow some people backstage for a meet and greet and hand out some free meet and greet passes and we sit there. The show starts and a DJ from a local radio station comes out and says "I just found out that we have a couple Soldiers in the audience who just got back home from Iraq and I just want to welcome them home." Half the audience stood up and gave us a standing ovation and that was it. So I didn't just get home from Iraq and that was all they could do for us. I don't expect much and I'm not complaining about not getting things. I just know what we've seen and what we've done and I think Soldiers deserve more than a small amount of appreciation. I've always asked for just a simple thank you and that was it and it seems like that's even a very big price for some people to pay considering the price the Soldiers have paid for them.
Anyway I will stop the complaining and move on and just see how things go for the next few weeks. We get about 6 months off from drill so as much vacation from the Army will be pretty good and Monday I will start back to the TV Station. My vacation is coming to an end but its been a good one and I hope to keep people up to date and write at least one blog a week about our life and how things are going. Thanks again for continuing to read my Blog and I hope you all continue to enjoy it.
Friday, April 27, 2007
My Mom asked me if I could go back to the day I signed my contract with the Army and if I would do it again. I’m not really sure what I would do, I’ve learned a lot and done a lot of things only a few civilians can say they’ve done and seen, but I’ve missed a lot of things as well. It’s hard to decide but I’m glad I did this and I’m glad I had the opportunities I’ve had over here. I will miss the people I’ve made friends with. I will miss the “good kids” and the Elders. I can’t say I will miss them enough to stay any longer but its time to be with my family and friends back home. Its time to continue on with my life back in the States, there is so much I have missed and ready to do all those things as much as I can.
I have a lot of memories I will take with me, from all the Med Caps to all the lunches with the Elders. It’s been fun and I have a great story to tell when I get home and can’t wait to tell it. I will always remember the smiles from the kids when we gave them something or when we returned their thumbs up... There is still a lot of work to be done over here but I know people will continue my goal and hopefully things will continue to change for the better and will one day be the Afghanistan of the 60’s and 70’s.
I hope all of you know how much help you gave and how much easier you made my job and time over here. If you weren’t sending boxes of clothes you were sending goodies for me. I appreciate everything all of you did more than you know. I never thought I would receive so much support but you guys are heroes and I’m so glad I had the chance to talk with so many amazing people. You guys are great and I hope you continue to help support the troops and the people of Afghanistan. Thank you all for everything you have done...
Well I guess its time for my final sign off from Afghanistan; I plan to keep writing in my Blog about my family, friends and everything going on in my life. I hope you all keep reading and stay in touch. Thanks again for everything and thanks so much for reading my Blog. You are all great Americans and I’m so glad I live in a country that supports its military as much as all of you do.
So long from Afghanistan...
Saturday, April 14, 2007
So back to my busy week, we had 3 backpack drops mostly from the donations that all of you guys have brought in. I’m still getting box after box each day!! I’ve received stuff from Boys and Girl Scouts from around the country and things from people on other Deployments themselves. It’s over whelming what we can do as a Nation and Americans. We are the best Country in the world and I think once we get together we show that in so many ways. (I drift a lot don’t I?) So my Hero for this Blog will be all the Boys and Girl Scouts that have donated so much stuff. Cookies, clothes, shoes, school supplies. Thank you all so much for being such a big help. I hope you guys know how great it is to see kids helping in our cause and getting involved in World Problems. When I was a kid I never thought I would be sitting here today and I never knew much about the problems outside of my own, but I’m glad you kids are learning now. So thanks for the wonderful cookies the Thin Mints are the best!! And thanks for helping me out and sending all the stuff for the kids here…
We had a big Humanitarians drop last week as well giving out food and clothing to 20 families who lost their homes with all the recent rain and flooding the country has received, but the rain is really a good thing for the country, they have had over 30 years of drought. So we handed out oil and beans, rice, flour and then shoes and clothes and blankets. Most of the shoes we gave out were what we had left over from all the shoes we bought this winter. We are trying our hardest to get rid of all the stuff we had in our Conex.
If you still want to keep sending things here is the new address. I will be leaving within the next 2 weeks so Major Roper will fall on the privilege of picking up all the mail!! Once his replacement gets here from South Carolina I will give you his address.
41BCT HHC 1-180 SECFOR
APO, AE 09320
Well a short Blog but I just wanted to give you an update and I’ve been getting lots of questions on the address. Anyway I will have one more entry before I leave country and will keep you all updated when I get home.