Friday, April 14, 2006

Vets For Freedom

Vets For Freedom was founded by a group of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans who believe in the mission of freedom, specifically Operation Iraqi Freedom, but who have become frustrated with the way the operation has been politicized and reported to the home front.

In January 2006, this group of veterans, enlisted personnel, and officers decided to take action. The result was the creation of Vets for Freedom, a non-profit advocacy group whose mission is to promote the unbiased, nonpartisan truth of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to educate the public and mobilize public support for the Global War on Terror.

The founders and members of Vets for Freedom have witnessed the firsthand events, both the successes and failures, of the Iraq War. While their voice has largely been ignored by many policymakers and the media, they have earned the right to be heard and will use this organization to lend their insights to this worthy cause.

Wade Zirkle is the executive director of Vets for Freedom. He served two tours in Iraq with the Marines before being wounded in action. He wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post entitled Troops in Support Of the War. He makes the point of how out of touch the drive-by-media and many of the elected officials are with respect to the morale and attitudes of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some key items are as follows:

Mark Seavey, a former Army sergeant who had recently returned from Afghanistan [made the following comment at a town hall meeting attended in part by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Rep. John Murtha (D-PA):] "I know you keep saying how you have talked to the troops and the troops are demoralized, and I really resent that characterization. The morale of the troops I talk to is phenomenal, which is why my troops are volunteering to go back despite the hardships..."

"And, Congressman Moran, 200 of your constituents just arrived back from Afghanistan -- we never got a letter, we never got a visit from you, you didn't come to our homecoming. The only thing we got was a letter from the governor of this state thanking us for our service in Iraq, when we were in Afghanistan. That's reprehensible. I don't know who you two are talking to, but the morale of the troops is very high."

What was the response? Murtha said nothing, while Moran attempted to move on, no pun intended, stating: "That wasn't in the form of a question, it was a statement."

It was indeed a statement; a statement from both a constituent and a veteran that should have elicited something more than silence or a dismissive comment highlighting a supposed breach of protocol. This exchange, captured on video (it was on C-SPAN), has since been forwarded from base to base in military circles. It has not been well received there, and it only raises the already high level of frustration among military personnel that their opinions are not being heard.

I am grateful for Wade Zirkle, his financial backers, his associates and certainly the men and women who serve and have served so valiantly in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

The GWOT may not have an end in sight, but the battle must go on. We will get smarter. We will develop smarter technologies, methodologies, tactics and strategies. We cannot fight the GWOT with one hand tied behind our back. The electorate must put in officials that have the will to win. Our servicemen and women need our financial, emotional and political support.

The Vets For Freedom is helping to ensure all citizens have a right to express their views on this important national challenge, and all should be heard. Veterans ask no more, and they deserve no less.

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