(Highlights of Fort Snelling CVA event. Video by Jeremy Griffith, American Millennium Online.)
by Jeremy Griffith
The American Millennium Online
This weekend my girlfriend and I attended an event in Minneapolis for veterans sponsored by Concerned Veterans for America. We had good food and entertainment, with a call to action at the end.
This was apparently the last stop of CVA’s Defend America 2015 Tour. Registration was free and they served hot beef and pork sandwiches and pop to those who attended. CVA’s Pete Hegseth headlined the event, flanked by Gold Star Mom Karen Vaughn, Army Ranger Captain Sean Parnell, Jason Quick, and popular musicians Ayla Brown and Madison Rising.
Hegseth interests me because we have somewhat of a shared story. We served in the Minnesota National Guard together in the same division around the same time. He served in Afghanistan while I served in Iraq. I met him one time when he was running for congress. I covered his campaign for this blog. He’s gone on from that loss to become an advocate for veterans and a successful radio and TV pundit, now contributing to Fox News on a regular basis.
Hegseth high lighted the recent failures of the VA and proposed a way to change it and hold it accountable. He handed out a proposal to those of us who were interested prepared by expert advisors called Fixing Veteran Health Care. The veterans he said have been the victim of a horrible government monopoly where the customers are not valued for who they are: heroes. The employees are secure in the knowledge that they can’t be fired or held in any way accountable for failing to provide adequate service. As I drove to the venue there at Basecamp, located on the unsecure side of Fort Snelling, I pondered this issue as I observed several signs posted right on Fort Snelling property addressing this very issue. They said, “The VA Lied, Veterans Died!” I didn’t get to see what group published the large billboards.
I’ve heard it said on Facebook and elsewhere that over a third of all veterans waiting for health care from the Veterans Administration have died while they’ve been waiting. Some of them, too many, suffering while they wait have chosen to commit suicide rather than wait any longer. This is unacceptable to me and many veterans and is one of the reasons I was curious about this rally.
Hegseth says their proposal is the beginning of a bill that will be presented to congress to hold VA employees accountable for providing inadequate, (or no) care, giving administrators the ability to fire those employees who under perform, providing the administration has the political will to do so. I’m not convinced that they do provided their history. So far the VA head has resigned, and two people have been fired but none have been prosecuted, problematic considering that administrators in the Arizona VA actually purged patients names on waiting lists so as to make their numbers look better.
The Defend America tour seems like a political rah rah rally to get veterans fired up to take political action on their own behalf. Interesting if true. Hegseth says he wants to create an Army of veterans who don’t hang up their uniforms and stow their boots after they leave the service, but continually serve their country in the interest of the nation. I have to admit, I’m intrigued by the prospect. I think a lot of veterans of my generation are not interested in the current veterans organizations, who offer a club to drink beer and eat burgers and pull on pull tabs while telling war stories with other veterans. We want something a little more involved. This might be it. I signed on for grass roots training later this month. I’ll let you know what I learn.
This week was the anniversary of 9-11 and many of us remember that fateful day with sadness and loss. I remember it for another reason. On this day last year, my girlfriend turned fiancé passed her test in Minneapolis to become a US Citizen. Emigrating from the Philippines 8 years ago, she has settled in to the American way of life such as it is. She often says, watching the news of the day, that America isn’t the America it once was and I agree. This was a good way for us to celebrate her anniversary. She was all smiles that evening and it was great to see.
We sat across from new friends we’d just made. She met a Filipina married to an American gentleman and they became Facebook friends on the spot. Across from me, talking about weird coincidences, sat John, a former Command Sergeant Major from my old unit. I retired in January of this year from 1-340th Training Support Battalion there at Fort Snelling. He had served as that unit’s Sergeant Major until his retirement in 2005. Small world. I think everyone enjoyed the show and learned something new.
Army Veteran Sean Parnell spoke with passion about his unit’s service in Afghanistan, telling about one harrowing day of battle there where everyone in his small platoon sustained injuries fighting off Al Qaeda forces. Parnell is the author of The Outlaw Platoon, which is now going to be on my reading list. His story of courage was very moving.
Country Singer Ayla Brown and patriotic rock group Madison Rising performed at the event. The most interesting moment however was when Gold Star Mom Karen Vaughn got up to speak. She is the mother of fallen Navy SEAL hero Aaron Vaughn, a member of SEAL Team 6 who died with some of his colleagues on Aug. 6, 2011. Her story of her son’s courage and determination was riveting and made everyone’s eyes water. You can watch her testimony on You Tube and see for yourself.
I actually had low expectations of this event but I was actually pleasantly surprised. I’m eager to learn more about this organization. I will let you know more as I go. Attached you’ll find links to the highlights I shot of this event plus You Tube video of previous events on this tour.
(Video from Concerned Veterans For America – Defend America Tour, Austin Texas 2015.)