By Ryan Gray, Goffstown, NH
I have never posted on a blog before, but I wanted to come here and explain why I have decided to join other veterans from across New Hampshire to launch the Obama for New Hampshire Veterans Steering Committee . As steering committee members, we’ll be advising the campaign on veterans’ issues and sharing with fellow veterans why Barack Obama is the candidate who will look out for out fighting men and women – in and out of uniform.
Like many of you, I am deeply upset about the current state of our country. As a Marine who went voluntarily to Iraq for two tours of duty, I was disappointed to see us sent into battle without a clear path to victory, without adequate planning and without the equipment we needed to get the job done and come safely home. I have been frustrated to see so many of us called up for third and even fourth tours of duty. And I have been outraged by the breaking of the sacred trust between our country and our veterans demonstrated by the scandals at Walter Reed Medical Center and the declining quality of the VA.
As so often happens in American history, out of this difficult time has emerged a tremendous leader. That leader is Barack Obama.
I have dedicated myself to Sen. Obama’s campaign because he has demonstrated the judgment and the understanding necessary to be Commander-in-Chief and, were I still active, I would be honored to serve under him myself.
The top issue on every veteran’s mind, of course, is the war in Iraq. It is undeniable that our troops have done an outstanding job, and their commitment and courage are an inspiration to all of us. But it is equally clear our fighting forces are now mired in the middle of a civil war propelled by forces they can’t control. And as they work to carry out their ever-changing mission in the desert heat, General Petraeus is in Washington this week to tell Congress that while a small number of our troops may be able to come home next year, the war will likely drag on as sectarian violence continues.
When Sen. Obama stood up in 2002 to oppose the war, he made it clear that he doesn’t “oppose war in all circumstances”—indeed, one of his priorities as President will be to finally finish the job in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is resurgent. Rather, Obama opposed the invasion because he thought it would lead to “a war of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.” Tragically, he was right.
Having been on the front lines, I can tell you that our troops are solely dedicated to their mission, and the safety of their comrades. Marines, soldiers, sailors and airforce personnel have no choice but to trust that the civilian leadership who put you in harm’s way understands the situation and has your back. Obama recognizes the situation in Iraq for what it is. And he’s stressed again and again that we have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. I could not agree more.
But it doesn’t end with Iraq. I appreciate Obama’s strong track record of fighting for us as a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Now, as a presidential candidate, he has pledged a comprehensive approach to looking after our service members, from the moment they enlist through their service and re-entry into society.
When he’s president, Obama has promised to improve mental health care at every stage of military service and expand the VA’s capacity to treat psychological injury. He’ll fully fund the VA so that veterans can rely on the full range of care when they need it. And he’ll enact a much-needed “zero tolerance” policy for veterans falling into homelessness—an issue of particular concern for many of us.
Obama understands that there is a sacred trust in this country between our government and those of us who take up arms to defend our ideals—and he understands that for too long that trust has not been kept.
It’s true that Barack Obama does not have the most Washington experience. But Washington has let down our military and ignored that sacred trust. Anyone who has served will tell you good judgment on the field is what you want, and for me and veterans throughout the state and our country, a leader with courage and a fresh perspective is exactly what we need.