Retired military officials speak out in support of Obama

October 13, 2008|By DAVE MCMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Two retired U.S. military officials and John Dalton, secretary of the U.S. Navy under President Clinton, took aim at Republican presidential candidate John McCain during a roundtable discussion in Martinsburg on Sunday afternoon and threw their support behind Democratic candidate Barack Obama in the Nov. 4 general election.

Appearing with Dalton at a Democratic headquarters on Queen Street was Pat Foot, a retired U.S. Army general, and David M. Stone, who had a 28-year naval career and who is considered an expert in homeland security, serving in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under Tom Ridge.

Stone also was deputy director of surface warfare on the chief of naval operations staff in the U.S. Pentagon, among other assignments.

Dalton, Foot and Stone said the McCain-Palin ticket is weak because Palin does not have the experience to be vice president, medical care for veterans has suffered in recent years and the country is in trouble in a number of ways.


Obama presents a fresh start, "operating on hope and vision," Foot said.

McCain spokeswoman Gail Gitcho shot back at the group in a telephone interview, saying McCain has tirelessly been an advocate for the military and veterans. McCain understands it's important to support veterans and their families, and he introduced measures that increase pay, set up savings accounts overseas and provide survivorship benefits, Gitcho said.

"Barack Obama says that he wants to add more men and women to our military, yet his record proves that he has refused to fund them. Obama's own running mate, Joe Biden, has criticized Obama for refusing to vote for critical troop funding," Gitcho said.

Stone said his group had been in West Virginia since last Thursday, making stops in Charleston, Fairmont, Elkins and Morgantown.

The roundtable discussion in Martinsburg included about 15 spectators, some of whom were veterans.

Stone said after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. military had al-Qaida on the run and Osama bin Laden had fled to Pakistan. Then President Bush decided the country should instead wage war in Iraq, Stone said.

"Barack Obama knew that was not the right decision. Now what we got is the greatest and most courageous military in the world losing men and women in Iraq at the cost of $10 billion a month," Stone said.

Antonio Green, a Martinsburg resident who served in the U.S. Marines from 1970 to 1983, told the roundtable speakers about economic stresses veterans are facing.

Ken Mattson, who was a military police sergeant, said three people in his unit lost their civilian jobs because they were being deployed so often.

Foot responded by saying that Obama will continue to work for those serving the United States, going after employers who are discriminating against veterans by not holding their jobs for them while they are deployed.

"I really do believe this is the most important election in my lifetime. We've got some serious problems, domestically, internationally, economically," Dalton said.

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