THE BLOG
05/31/2010 03:27 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Memorial Day... In the Words Of Democratic Candidates Who Have Served The Country

Although most Americans have been either celebrating being off from work or school or remembering their fallen heroes, a storm has been gathering -- one that will break this week-- around Mark Kirk, a corporately-funded Republican from the Chicago suburbs who has made his career based on patently false claims about winning imaginary military awards. And as he twists and turns in the wind attempting to spin it all as a "typo", just a few days after he voted against repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, evidence has begun to surface that he didn't just lie about his awards; he also lied about his sexuality -- yes, another homophobic Republican closet case is about to get outed for his grotesque hypocrisy!

Meanwhile, in honor of Memorial Day, we turned DownWithTyranny over to Democratic congressional candidates who have learned important and relevant lessons connected to military service. Already up are guest posts from Doug Tudor (D-FL), Tod Theise (D-NJ) and Justin Coussoule. (D-OH). At 3pm we'll be posting Bill Hedrick (D-CA) and at 6pm we'll close the day with Mitchell Howie (D-AL).

Doug talked about his hopes that "someday that we will use Memorial Day to not only pay tribute to those Americans who died serving our country in the military, but also to come together once a year as a country to rededicate ourselves as a nation opposed to wars. I believe the best way we can honor those who have fallen on the field of battle is to work our very hardest to ensure that no others have the same fate... "Over the course of this Memorial Day, nearly all politicians and candidates will fall over themselves claiming how much they respect the fallen, honor our veterans, and support our troops. Few of them will follow up with any discussion of how they will actually protect the veterans from an underfunded Veterans Administration, multiple deployments, never-ending and unsustainable warfare, and lives of uncertainty based on campaign cycles. This must stop. 

"To me, 'Honor, Courage, Commitment' means I must have enough honor to speak the truth to power; to have the courage to question the leaders of my party; and the commitment to stand strong enough to do my part to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As I did throughout my career in the Navy, you can count on me to stay true to these three core values."

Tod Theise, an attorney, is currently serving in the New York Guard and he wrote about how his tenure there has "had an indelible impact on how I view not only war, but peace":

When my unit travels to Fort Hamilton, Floyd Bennett Field or some other military facility to perform what we affectionately refer to as "will drills," we are confronted with a reality most Americans never witness. It is a sobering experience to sit down with a young man or woman to discuss things like the disposition of their remains or draft a health care proxy in the event they return from Iraq or Afghanistan incapable of making decisions regarding medical care. It is heart rending to make small talk with a twenty-year-old about how he wants his kid brother to get his prized hot rod if he doesn't make it back. Even more difficult is addressing issues involving children and what happens to them when mommy or daddy comes home in a flag-draped casket. 
 

Our soldiers are not action movie characters or cartoonish fodder for our entertainment. They are flesh and blood. They are our brothers and sisters. They are our sons and daughters. They have precious dreams that they sacrificially defer in order to preserve our liberties. I often find myself looking for a quiet place amidst the frenzy of our legal services operation to bow my head, say a prayer and shed some tears at the prospect that some of these soldiers will not be coming home or that their lives will be forever changed by the hell that is war. That their families will sit down for Christmas dinners to come with an empty place setting that will never be filled. That their children will grow up never knowing their mothers or fathers. That they will leave a piece of their soul in an Iraqi desert or Afghani mountain range. 

Sending servicemen and women into the line of fire is the most solemn decision any elected official will ever make. Before such a decision is made, it is incumbent upon those in power to consider exactly what they are placing at risk. I subscribe to a very simple standard for whether to commit troops to the field-- would I send my own son or daughter to fight. Most politicians could not answer this question in the affirmative. Yet they wrap themselves in the flag and reflexively send other people's children across the globe to fight for causes not worthy of their own progeny's blood. I hope there is a special corner of hell carved out for these hypocrites.   

My service in the Guard has, more than anything, taught me to value our troops at a very human level. I pray on this Memorial Day that I never discount who they are for the sake of political expedience.

Justin Coussoule, the West Point grad and former Army officer, took an opportunity to express a very different perspective. Last week Justin talked about how his experience as an officer led him to the conclusion that DADT should be repealed. Today he talked about how he his military service helped him better understand the importance of equal pay for women.

As a cadet at West Point and then an Army officer, I worked alongside highly trained, highly effective, and highly competent soldiers, many of whom were women. In fact, my wife and my sister-in-law are both veterans, and they along with the female soldiers I led served as honorably and ably as the men in their units. The same is true for women in the workplace today, where women contribute in all industries at all levels. Unlike in the Army, though, women today only earn about 75% of what a man in the same job is paid. Women deserve equal pay for equal work. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was a step forward, but there are still those who would oppose equality in pay, like my opponent, John Boehner. In the 21st century, what possible reason could one give for not supporting equal pay for equal work? 
 
As a society, we will always be better for affording equal chances to those who want to succeed.  We cannot discriminate against or oppress those who would make our nation better simply because of gender. I learned in the Army that from Private to General Officer, pay is based on rank, not gender.  The same should be true in the civilian workforce, where pay is based on performance, and gender has no impact. Women today serve from the assembly line to the board room, and the gains made in the last fifty years must be protected with continued fair and equal access to the same opportunities men have. 

Like Doug Tudor, Bill Hedrick has been a very vocal advocate for ending the occupation of Afghanistan as quickly as can be done taking the safety of our forces into consideration. On a day that the President of Germany resigned over the scandal of him going to Afghanistan and admitting publicly that German troops and fighting and dying there to "protect German economic interests," Bill reminds us that his own children are on active duty in Iraq right now.

Our family members have been asked to make enormous sacrifices at the direction of our political leaders in Washington. For whom are those sacrifices being made? A corrupt Afghan central government whose leader threatens to "join the Taliban?" To protect oil fields or natural gas pipelines for US and European corporations? To maintain contracts for war profiteers who have grown rich from military procurements to support endless occupations?
 
Right now my children are serving in the military, two currently stationed just south of Baghdad on their third deployments. And while my kids put their lives on the line to 'defend the Constitution'-- the tacit bargain when one enlists-- I am not willing to have their lives in jeopardy to defend profits for Mobil/Exxon or 'opportunities' in Iraq for British Petroleum. 
 
Further, it is tremendously offensive for our leaders to verbally wrap themselves in the flag and congratulate themselves for their courageous vote to fund an expansion of an ill-founded war when all they risk is losing the next election. My children, indeed all our sons and daughters, are asked to display genuine courage-- risking an arm, a leg, a life.
 
This week, Washington politicians like Ken Calvert committed billions of dollars more to an on-going war policy that does little to make us safer at home, will certainly result in more deaths and grievous injuries to more military personnel, and drives us as a nation further into debt. After seven years in Iraq and nine years in Afghanistan, it is long past time to bring our men and women safely home.

Tomorrow is primary day in Alabama and there's a crucial race in the 5th district, the northern tier of the state, to replace party switcher Parker Griffith, who went from being a miserably conservative Blue Dog to being an even more miserably conservative Republican. By far, the best candidate running in either party's primary is an Air Force vet, Mitchell Howie. Howie's post, which will be available at DownWithTyranny at 6pm (PT) talks about how the young officer came to the conclusion about how dangerous to our national security corporately-mandated energy policies are-- and what he plans to do about changing those policies.

That's why part of my platform in this race is to create a Green TVA here in North Alabama. The Tennessee Valley Authority has brought jobs and electricity to homes all across the Tennessee Valley for decades, and I want to do the same with clean energy. A Green TVA just makes sense. We can create American jobs by manufacturing products like wind turbines and solar panels in the auto manufacturing plants who's doors have closed over the passed several years. North Alabama's deep water ports can ship these products to consumers and vendors all over the country, who currently must send American money to China in order to meet their clean energy needs. Research universities within this district can provide the know-how to develop newer, better clean energy technology so we can stop relying on foreign oil, and secure our nation with clean, American power.

Some have said this is a far fetched idea, but I remind them that the same was said about walking on the moon before a team of rocket scientists started their research at the Marshall Space Flight Center and Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, which still stands in Alabama's Fifth Congressional District.

This Memorial Day, I hope all Americans will remember the service of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for American freedom, but also think about how many more of our brave men and women will have to lay down their lives to fund the oil addiction that weakens our country. We need clean, American power that brings jobs, a sustainable climate, and security that can't be influenced by the same powers that fund international terrorism. That's why my name will appear on tomorrow's Democratic Primary ballot in North Alabama, and one of the many reasons I'm going to bring service back to Washington.