Another View -- Patrick Bick: I was embarrassed by my government's treatment of vets
November 07. 2013 11:02PM
As we approach Veterans Day, I remain sickened by the way this administration treated veterans during the "government shutdown."
Citing the government shutdown, the World War ll Memorial was "closed." The memorial is a circular plaza where visitors simply walk around to read the tributes to the men who defeated Hitler and Hirohito. No federal employees are needed for people to access the plaza. Virtually every day of the shutdown members of the "Greatest Generation," men in their 80s and 90s, arrive to see the monument that recognizes their service. The fact that they were being threatened with arrest was disgusting.
On Oct. 1, a busload of vets arrived. Showing the same spirit they did on the beaches of Normandy, but this time with canes and walkers, they "stormed" the plaza. On Oct. 2 another group of veterans was threatened with arrest. But when they arrived they found many sympathizers, including conservative congressmen, standing with them.
Park police officers looked the other way and the vets and their friends flooded into the plaza. Nonetheless, as many as seven National Park employees erected fences to block access by the vets in the afternoon. As one observer noted, this is two more "guards" than our diplomats had in Benghazi.
On Oct. 3, our veterans won another victory: After two days of terrible press coverage, the Obama White House surrendered and would no longer attempt to keep veterans out of the World War II Memorial. Unfortunately, our active duty troops and their families were facing major inconveniences. The Obama administration, which decides what gets closed and what stays open during a government shutdown, closed grocery stores on military bases. But the golf course at Andrews Air Force Base, where Obama frequently plays, remained open.
When our brave soldiers came back from Vietnam, they were harassed and spat on in the streets. They were called "war criminals" and "baby killers." Who did that to them? It wasn't the Tea Party; it didn't exist then. It wasn't conservatives, who honor the service and sacrifice of our troops. It was the left — radicals like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who helped launch Obama's political career. It was liberal opportunists like our current Secretary of State John Kerry, who, during testimony before Congress, accused his fellow countrymen of war crimes.
As the years passed, in part because of our national embarrassment over the way our Vietnam vets were treated, a memorial was built to honor them. The names of more than 58,000 dead are etched into a marble wall, and every year thousands of Americans visit the Vietnam Memorial to pay their respects. But the heirs of the hippies are now in the White House. Over the weekend of Oct. 5, they ordered park police to chase veterans and tourists away from the Vietnam Memorial. A lot has changed in the last 40 years. But the left's disrespect toward our men and women in uniform remains consistent.
The park police were also ordered to close the popular Iwo Jima Memorial, but a group of veterans, many of them in wheelchairs, knocked down the barricade.
The worst thing this administration did was to deny death benefits to the families of our fallen heroes in Afghanistan. They were also being told that they had to pay their own way to Dover Air Force Base, where the caskets containing the bodies of our soldiers return home from the battlefield. Congressional Republicans were furious; Democrats were nowhere to be found. Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., R-Calif., had it right. He called the administration's decision "boneheaded," adding that it was an "in your face, middle finger to the military families." The same administration that couldn't find the money for soldiers' death benefits apparently had the cash to keep Big Bird on the air and fund Planned Parenthood.
I served in the Navy during Vietnam and worked for the federal government for 35 years. During my career there were several "government shutdowns," but never did any former administration have the audacity to shut down the memorials.
In closing, I would like to thank every veteran in this great country for his or her service.
Patrick Bick is a Republican state representative from Salem.