Thursday, October 26, 2006

WA - 42nd LD Democrats hosts Veterans forum

Panel listens to Veterans
Left to Right: Jim Pace, Rick Larsen, Pete Kremen, Mike Slocum (standing)

Tuesday night the Ferndale Library meeting room was full to its 80 person capacity for a Veterans listening forum sponsored by the 42nd Legislative District Democrats.

The forum was designed to give Veterans a chance to speak to officials about their issues and concerns. The listening panel consisted of: Congressman Rick Larsen (D) WA-02; Jim Pace, President, Washington State Vietnam Veterans of America; Peter Kremen, Whatcom County Executive. Executive Kremen was a last minute substitution, originally scheduled was Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, Deputy Director, Washington State Dept. of Veterans' Affairs. (WA State Dept. of Veterans' Affairs backed out after an ungrounded complaint from the Doug Roulstone campaign.)

The forum was organized by Mike Slocum (USN Ret.) and Moderated by Shannon O'Brien, Chair, 42nd LD Democrats.

The panelists were each given three minutes to introduce themselves and then they listened. Every Vet that wanted to speak was given time to voice whatever concerned them.

Present were Veterans of WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War and the current conflict. Also squeezed in at the back of the room as observers were students from a Ferndale High School Government class.

Many older veterans talked about being let down by the current Veterans Administration and the pressing need for a VA outpatient clinic to serve the 19,000 Veterans who live in Whatcom County. A Veteran of the Iraq Occupation, who identified himself as being gay, talked about the stupidity of the Military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. Other Veterans voiced their opposition to the continued occupation of Iraq. The mother of an Intelligence Officer serving in Iraq read a letter from her son denouncing the Occupation and calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops so that the Insurgency can come to an end and Iraqi's be allowed to get on with rebuilding their country.

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