Monday, December 07, 2009

Wagner on Afghanistan (and His Military Background)

From yesterday's inbox:

Auditor General Jack Wagner, speaking tonight at the annual dinner of the Asian Indian Americans of Central Pennsylvania, addressed President Obama’s recent decision to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Wagner, a longtime advocate for the men, women, and veterans of the armed forces, is a U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran of the Vietnam War.

“I disagree with the President's decision to substantially expand the number of American military personnel in Afghanistan. The previous administration squandered numerous opportunities in Afghanistan, but those mistakes should not be compounded by another,” Wagner said at the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel, outside of Harrisburg. “Nevertheless, our Commander-in-Chief has made a difficult decision in an enormously challenging economic and international environment. I hope that his policy works and that our brave troops come home in 18 months.”

Wagner, a Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, said that he was also concerned about the war’s horrific impact on U.S. soldiers and their families. He noted that more than 5,100 military personnel have been killed and more than 32,000 wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I fear that this is another mistake that will fall most heavily on the soldiers and their families who will bear the burden of this dangerous deployment,” said Wagner. “No matter where you stand on the political aspects of the war, we must keep our troops and military families in our thoughts and prayers for their ultimate sacrifice in protecting our freedom.”

Wagner is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he received the Purple Heart and numerous other military commendations for his infantry service during the Vietnam War. He was granted a medical discharge after being wounded in combat.

Wagner has long championed veterans’ issues during his three decades of public service. As a state senator, he worked with other state and local officials in 1999 to help secure the Commonwealth’s $2 million contribution to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. That contribution, made in honor of Pennsylvania’s 1.3 million veterans who served in World War II, was the largest donation by any state to the memorial.

In his first year as Auditor General, Wagner led a series of veterans’ breakfasts around the Commonwealth to hear concerns of Pennsylvania veterans and issued a report summarizing the meetings to Gov. Ed Rendell. Last year, he released a special performance audit that found that inadequate policies and procedures by the State Civil Service Commission resulted in state agencies filling hundreds of civil service positions without considering eligible veterans who were seeking employment.

Recognition for Wagner’s continuing efforts to assist veterans has included the Veteran of the Year Award from Veteran Community Initiatives, the Veteran of the Year Award from the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program, the Outstanding Legislator Award from the Pennsylvania Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Outstanding Service Award from the Pennsylvania War Veterans Council. He is actively involved in a variety of other veterans organizations, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Veterans Political Action Committee, Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans Institute, and Italian-American War Veterans. For two decades, he has served as chairman of the annual Sharing & Caring Golf Outing, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for hospitalized veterans in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

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