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]
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