On the EDge: Romney-Ryan insult war heroes

Revised Sept. 17, 2012 – Susanne Green, of Public Relations for the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, clarified by email that the USS Wisconsin belongs to the city of Norfolk and its Nauticus Museum, not at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum as originally stated. Sourcing error, correction made.

OPINION – I am doing all in my power to not throw my laptop against the wall. I really am.

You see, I am still seething from the spectacle that was Saturday in Norfolk, Va., where Mitt Romney, standing on a platform in front of the USS Wisconsin at the Nauticus Museum in Norfolk, Va., introduced Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., as his running mate. The ship belongs to the city of Norfolk and its Nauticus Museum.

My Dad served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and the destroyer he was assigned to sailed with the Wisconsin.

My wife served in the U.S. Navy during Operation Desert Storm, and was one of the first injured in the line of duty while she helped prepare the USS Missouri for battle.

My father-in-law drove a tank in Europe under the command of Gen. George S. Patton during World War II.

They entered the military with a sense of duty. They served honorably. They made sacrifices. They displayed more courage than I could ever muster, I am sure.

But, along comes Mitt Romney, who decides he will use the Wisconsin, a noble sailing vessel that is an important part of the nation’s history, to fuel his political campaign. The tie-in, of course, is that Ryan comes to the campaign from Wisconsin.

How dare they?

Romney received five years of deferments from the time he signed up with the Selective Service System in 1965 until his name was placed into the draft. It was 1970 and I remember it well. I was in that first draft lottery along with him. Unlike Romney, I didn’t have a religious mission to extend my educational deferments an additional 2½ years. We both drew high numbers in the lottery, however, and neither of us was called to serve.

Now, in full disclosure, I was adamantly opposed to the Vietnam War. Romney? While attending Stanford University in May 1966, Romney’s pro-war sentiments spilled over when he marched against anti-war protestors. Apparently, however, his hawkish stance wasn’t strong enough for him to enlist at a time when the war was escalating. If he was such a proponent of the war, why didn’t he enlist?

Flash forward 46 years and what have we today?

What we have here is somebody who, in political circles, is referred to as a chicken hawk, somebody who long after being at risk for being drafted into the military or who is too old to serve, is more than willing to send young men and women to do what he refused to do – go into harm’s way.

We have a history of that, you know, or did we already forget about Dick Cheney?

It will be argued that Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton did not serve in the military, either. However, neither used an historic World War II battleship as the backdrop to promote their political aspirations.

Obama has made several trips to meet and visit with his troops — on the battlefield and in VA hospitals — but I can only recall once when he boarded a naval ship and that was for a college basketball game last November between North Carolina and Michigan State on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson. It was part of a celebration in honor of Veteran’s Day, set up by the NCAA. Besides, as Commander in Chief, he is entitled to board any military vessel or visit any military base of his choosing.

The Romney show Saturday was a different story.

It was all shallow imagery as two guys who never wore the uniform made a pathetic appeal to veterans and veterans groups for votes. It was ill-advised staging, using United States government taxpayer-supported property to make a campaign pitch.

I am not one of those who believes that to serve as an elected official, one must have first served in the military. I fail to see where that connection makes one candidate stand apart from the other. I also do not believe that opposition to a morally questionable military engagement means you express anti-military sentiment or are not patriotic. As opposed as I was to the venture into Iraq, I still hold a prayer in my heart for every man and woman who enters into harm’s way to return to their home and loved ones safely.

And, although I never wore the uniform, I respect those who did so honorably, and I mean honorably. I knew guys who signed on with the Utah National Guard’s Triple Deuce who went into major panic mode when the unit was called to active duty, saying “I just signed up to pay off my school loans.” That is not serving honorably.

But, to all of those who did — my friends who went into the jungles in Vietnam, those who were sent to the Middle East, my Dad, my father-in-law, my wife — thank you for your service and heroism.

And, I apologize for the crass, self-aggrandizing actions of a cheap politician Saturday afternoon.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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17 Comments

  • jaime wilson August 15, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    You don’t think he had to pay a pretty penny for that opportuinity?? It is all showboating on both sides. Get over yourself and let’s be angry with the whole situation. The country is in a world of hurt and I don’t know that anyone can fix it at this point. The deficit and unemployment are enough to make any decent citizen puke. All of them back in Washington have their hand in somebodies pocket. Way too corrupt all the way around for any of them to say they are patriots.

  • Greg August 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Ed, seriously… Finally got you out of St. George and away from the Spectrum, then you continue to spew your unfounded venom courageously from abroad. Good for you for following your dreams outside our great nation. Now maybe you should stop getting offended at every little thing said or done by people not following your espoused myopic view of how things should be, and apologizing for those who do share your vision. I know the phrase is thrown around all the time that “if you do not like how things are, you can just leave.” Kudos for doing precisely that, at least physically. But let’s see if we can get your ideas to follow you down south of the border where we do not have to be bothered by them. Let the Mexican government have a taste for a while, or are the papers down there too wise to print your drivel?

  • Bryan Hyde August 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Some republicans do adore the symbols of war and state power, don’t they, Ed? Do you remember the cheering in 2008 when Romney said he’d double the size of Guantanamo? It sounded like a Nuremberg rally.

  • Paul Jensen August 15, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Get over yourself and pull your head out Ed. Wisconsin was last decommissioned in September 1991. She currently functions as a museum ship operated by Nauticus, The National Maritime Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Wisconsin was struck from the Naval Vessel Register (NVR) 17 March 2006, and, as of 14 December 2009, has been donated for permanent use as a museum ship. On 15 April 2010, the City of Norfolk officially took over ownership of the ship. So basically it’s not the US taxpayers who sponcered the announcement on Saturday.

  • -Mike- August 15, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    Wow, Bryan, bringing out the Nazi comparisons? Go big or go home, right? Impressive. I guess guess the Democrats prefer symbols of federal power (read: executive privilege; you choose the subject, including war) And Ed’s justification of Obama partying it up on the USS Carl Vinson is cute, too… People with an agenda can be so creative. Are we having fun yet?

  • Mike Biller August 16, 2012 at 5:22 am

    Maybe it would be a good idea if voters considered military service a qualification for election to office. I was also annoyed when I saw Romney
    with the battleship as a backdrop. Romney and I are nearly the same age but I did go to Vietnam and he did not; one minor reason he won’t be getting my vote.

    • monika August 16, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      I think the battleship was a good idea, after all the current administration is just about gutting our military with no budget resolution in sight. Romney would protect our military and since I have two kids currently serving he gets my vote. Guess you won’t be voting for either candidate since the President didn’t serve either.

  • Misty August 16, 2012 at 5:38 am

    ummm ok. I found it to be quite comforting knowing someone will step in and take care of our military and be proud of our country and those who fight. to keep it free. hard to believe someone who claims to love our military so much could even begin to state Obama as more respectful to our military. He, Obama, constantly apologizes for our country, demeans our troops, and looks to downsize them. I think you have it a bit backwards. Our country needs a boost and that definitely lifted my spirits.

  • Daniel Holloway August 16, 2012 at 7:23 am

    I dont think that Romney participating in a march against anit-war marches makes him pro war, it does show that he does support the troops no matter where they are or for what reason and has their backs at home. They are fighting enemies on the battlefield, they don’t need to have to worry about who has their backs at home. That was a pretty big leap to say Romney is a pro war nut because he was supporting the troops at home. By his own admission, and using his own measurement, the author also falls under the same pro war “chicken hawk” as he claims Romney is, Ed you said yourself you weren’t volunteering to join the army either, you waited to see if you would have to through the draft.

  • Firefly August 16, 2012 at 7:45 am

    As a Vietnam veteran who honorably served my country so people like you are gauranteed the right and freedom to spew your vitrol garbage, I am offended by your commentary. You talk about men like Romney and Ryan referred to as “chicken hawks” for sending men and women into harms way, you forgot to include your current poor excuse for a president Barack Obama in that group. And if you drew draft numbers that were too high to be called up, why did you not enlist and serve yourself? I cannot beleive that there are people who willl disgrace our military, active and non-active, who they themselves have failed to honorably serve their nation. That you didn’t dodge the draft and run to Canada is surprising. But you did manage to retire to a third world country (Mexico) and take advantage of the economy there in your later years. How convenient Ed. Lets just hope you don;t decide to return to the good ole USA anytime soon. Have a shot of tequila for me…just not the cheap stuff.

    • ron August 17, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      From another Vietnam veteran with an entirely different perspective . . . President Obama is bringing our servicemen and women home as honorably as possible, getting us OUT of wars that President Bush took us into (with the connivance of a cowardly Congress, I might add). Expressing a contrary opinion is not spewing “vitrol (sic) garbage.” And while having served in our country’s military might give us a perspective that others lack, it does NOT mean that we have some sort of access to the truth that others lack. Our nation’s treatment of Vietnam veterans was shameful, but our current tendency to bow down and worship all things military is dangerous..

  • Mike August 16, 2012 at 8:11 am

    You got one thing right Ed, our leaders should understand service before they are elected. It would help if they understood economics, principled leadership and the constitution also. My family has served for three generations starting a fourth with over 125 combined years. I strongly object to sending our youth to die in foreign lands for causes we really have no constitutional right to support. I found time to serve 6 years fighting the cold war. A war which is ongoing and has yet to be won as long as there are “fair minded” individuals willing to enslave everyone in order to accomplish a society of equals….

    Don’t forget, Washington was a general long before he was a president.

  • Norfolk Citizen August 17, 2012 at 3:36 am

    Romney didn’t rent the Wisconsin. He rented space at Nauticus to hold his event. Renting space at Nauticus is an every day occurence and in no way endorses the person or event that books the arena. The Wisconsin is permanently moored at Nauticus and while he took advantage of that as a backdrop, there was no way to not have the ship there. The Wisconsin is not available for rent for political or personal events. The only events approved for the Wisconsin are Navy enlistment ceremonies, re-enlistment ceremonies and promotions. So to say he “paid a pretty penny” for having the Wisconsin in the background is a false statement.

  • Jade August 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Love YOU, ED!! Thanks for joining and stirring up readers of the area’s fastest-growing news source 🙂

  • D Rigby August 17, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    I see that time has stolen the ED mind. Obama uses the military to promote himself all the time.
    How much were you paid my Obama to write this?

  • D Rigby August 17, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Is moderation a new word for censor

  • Bent Nail September 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM USS Wisconsin how clever can this robot get??

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