Presidential Forum on Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and Military Families


MSC is inviting the candidates from both parties to Texas to participate in this Forum on Feb. 1. 2008.   We have been joined by Veterans and Military Families for Progress (www.vmfp.org), Not This Time Vets (www.notthistimevets.org), Veterans for Common Sense (www.veteransforcommonsense.org), Veterans Village (www.veteransvillage.org), Veterans United for Truth (www.vuft.org), Empowering Veterans (www.empoweringveterans.org), and the Farmers-Veterans Coalition (www.farmvetco.org).

This forum is NOT about being for the war in Iraq or against the war in Iraq.  This is about the fact that there IS a war in Iraq (as well as Afghanistan) and there are CONSEQUENCES to that war--consequences for our service members, for their families, for our country.  We believe the candidates should have to talk about how they plan to identify and deal with these consequences.

How do we help our military and veteran families receive the help they need emotionally, medically, and/or financially?  What are our obligations and responsibilities to them as a nation once they have fulfilled their obligations and responsibilities to us?

What can and/or should we be doing to help our returning warriors successfully reintegrate  into peacetime society?

These issues need to be a part of the national discourse about the war in Iraq because the war in Iraq does not end when a service member comes home. 

We would like voters all over America to be mindful when selecting their nominee for President that his or her choice will have a significant impact on the lives and well-being of millions of service members, veterans, wounded warriors, and military families, including children.

This Forum can help all of us, military, veteran, and civilian alike, make the most informed choice.

As much as individual presidential candidates talk about health care plans or personal values, the fact remains that we are electing a war president.  We are electing a president who will probably spend the bulk of his or her first term managing military conflicts and performing extensive foreign policy damage control.  In 2008, the next President will inherit at least two wars and the costs of those wars, internally as well as internationally, will continue to grow long after the last service member comes home.   


Consequently, Military Spouses for Change[1] is inviting the presidential candidates from both parties to Fort Hood, Texas (Killeen), on February 1st, to talk about foreign policy, our military, our veterans, our wounded warriors, and our military families.   

Fort Hood is the largest military installation in the United States. There are almost 46,000 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood and more than 24,000 spouses. On any given day, at least a third of these soldiers are deployed to Iraq and every week at least two soldiers from Fort Hood (on average) are killed in Iraq. 

 

This kind of event has never been done before and it needs to be done now.  Not only because Americans on both side of the aisle need to be reminded that we are electing the next Commander-in-Chief, but also because our service members and their families deserve to be addressed and heard by the people who wish to be elected in that position. 

 

We also think this country’s large veteran community should know which candidates truly value the military and veteran vote (if not for moral reasons, then for practical reasons).  There are approximately 1.4 million active duty service members in America and 1.2 million in the National Guard/Reserves.  If you include the spouses, that comes to a total of 4.1 million votes. 

 

Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 8 adults were veterans (26.4 million) in 2003.  If we assume that at least half of those adults were married, then we have approximately 39 million vet couples giving us a total of almost 43 million American adults who are currently serving in the military, have served in the military, or are married to someone serving or who had served.  That is not an insignificant number.

 

As an organization and as military spouses, clearly U.S. foreign policy is important to us. But the American public has an interest in this as well, not only for fiscal reasons (e.g., we have spent 493 billion dollars on the war in Iraq alone), but for national security reasons.  As we grapple with the reality of economic recession, we have to wonder how the candidates propose to balance our national security and defense needs with our domestic and economic needs.  What are the long-term visions and solutions for our country and our families? 

 

Furthermore, what about the depletion of our states' National Guard and reserve units?  How are we going to replenish those units so that individual states can respond to a natural disaster or, heaven forbid, another 9/11?

So far 1.5 million service members have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. What are the candidates’ positions on the possibility of reinstating the draft if, for example, we become engaged with Iran before he or she enters office?   

 

Since September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense has reported more than 64,000 wounded and 4,000 killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Department of Veterans Affairs, however, has reported treating 250,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, including 95,000 for mental health conditions.

Meanwhile, an estimated 700,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are expected to seek care from the VA within the next ten years, at a projected short-term cost of 7 to 9 billion dollars and long term cost of 660 BILLION dollars.  A recent DoD taskforce assessing the mental health capabilities of the military announced:  "The system of care for psychological health that has evolved over recent decades is insufficient to meet the needs of today's forces and their beneficiaries, and will not be sufficient to meet their needs in the future."  (
http://www.ha.osd.mil/dhb/mhtf/MHTF-Report-Final.pdf)

What do the candidates propose to do for our returning wounded warriors and their families?  How do we effectively identify their mental, physical, social, and financial needs and how do we effectively meet those needs?

The suicide rate is the highest in almost 30 years and the propensity to serve is at a 20 year low. Consequently, the Army and Marine Corps are relying on reenlistment and recruiting bonuses that will cost nearly 2.5 billion dollars next year.

Iraq is the defining electoral issue of 2008.  Nothing can be done domestically until we have settled our foreign affairs in such a way that does not require a large military presence in hostile countries.  Yet because Texas is not an early primary state, it does not warrant the attention of the Presidential candidates.  Nonetheless, we cannot imagine an event more powerful than these candidates answering questions posed to them by the very people whose service and sacrifice allow forums such as these to exist.   

 

Shouldn't we ascertain which candidates are the most qualified (from both parties) to lead our nation and our military prior to Super Tuesday?   And shouldn't this be done in front of an audience of service members, veterans, wounded warriors, advocates, and their families?

If you have any questions or are interested in being involved, please contact:

Carissa S. Picard

President

Military Spouses for Change

csp@militaryspousesforchange.com


[1] MSC is a non-profit, non-partisan organization created to educate and empower military spouses.   Recently, MSC was in a Military Times article discussing wounded warrior policies:   
http://www.armytimes.com/news/2007/10/military_disabilitycommissions_071016w/