Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Veteran Candidates

This posting is on a subject near and dear to my heart. I’ve mentioned that I’m from a military family. Visits with relatives this summer have included discussions of the GI Bill as a way of paying for college (both past and present), a VA loan as the means of getting a house and tales of military medicine. There were also some sobering stories of Iraq from the young man who bought his own body armor before being deployed because it would be better than standard army issue. He came home safe and sound but his mother still works with a group that prepares and mails care packages to troops overseas.

There are a number of veterans running for office this year that I would like to discuss, in case you aren’t familiar with them. I didn't include details of their service but if you link to their campaign sites you can read more about it there.

Surely you know Patrick Murphy (candidate for 8th congressional district), who this week gave an example of the type of legislation he would like to introduce if elected, new GI Bill of Rights. I think he has some good ideas. Murphy served in Afghanistan and Iraq. (press release on proposed legislation, article on press conference).

In the 6th state senate, candidate Paul Lang was injured on duty in the Coast Guard when outdated equipment failed. He also is looking out for his fellow veterans. At an event I described in a previous posting, he noted that that New Jersey has almost 30 caseworkers for returning veterans. Pennsylvania, with four times as many veterans, has three.

Bryan Lentz, candidate for the 161st state house, served in Iraq, Bosnia, and the Sinai Peninsula.

Joe Sestak, running for the 7th congressional district, is a retired Navy vice admiral

A few months ago I heard Rep. Allyson Schwartz (13th congressional district) talk and was very taken with one of the stories she told. While not in the military herself, her father served in the Korean War. She said he was gone for two years and when he returned she, at age 5, did not recognize him (full story in article here). This resonated because my mother tells a similar story of me not remembering my father when I was very young and he returned from a lengthy stay overseas. Service in the military affects not only the person in uniform but their entire family.

Soldiering is not a requirement for a candidate but in the midst of a war those with direct field experience are more likely to have a realistic understanding of what the troops need and what the true cost of the war is. We really don't want to be known as a country that sends its troops off with substandard body armor or outdated equipment or doesn't provide timely medical and psychological care for the soldiers or their families during their absence or on their return. A few more veterans in office might at least be able to bring these issues up for discussion and push for better care, equipment and facilities for active duty troops and better medical care for veterans.

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