Memorial Day Statement: Honor our Veterans, Work for Peace

Memorial Day Statement: Honor our Veterans, Work for Peace

Memorial Day is a day to honor men and women who lost their lives in military service

Veterans have put the well-being of the country first and their service ought to be respected even when we disagree with the military and foreign policies of our civilian political leadership, as I did when I was a Marine during the Vietnam War.

As Governor, I pledge to work to ensure that veterans receive the assistance they are entitled to.

It is disgraceful that veterans are dying due to inexcusable delays in getting into the Veterans Administration health care system. Improved medical intervention and treatment in the battle zones has reduced the rate of fatalities, but it has greatly increased the number of survivors with major long term medical care needs.

It is equally disgraceful that our government still refuses to fully acknowledge and provide adequate care for Vietnam era veterans and their descendants who suffer from exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin and for Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan veterans and their children dealing with the health consequences of exposure to depleted uranium. We also must do much more to acknowledge and encourage veterans to seek treatment for post traumatic stress.

Veterans and active military service members also need adequate pay. Their families should not have to rely on food stamps to feed themselves. Veterans should also receive better assistance in meeting their education, employment, and housing needs upon returning to civilian life.

On Memorial Day, we should also honor those who have been willing to challenge our politicians over their drive for war and imperial power. It was wrong for instance for the US to invade Iraq for oil and military bases, where as many as one million Iraqis were killed. The drone warfare directed in part at the Hancock Air base in Syracuse is killing many innocent civilians. Society's most vulnerable -- children, seniors, the poor -- are invariably the biggest victims of modern warfare. And it is often the poor who are recruited to fight the wars.

As Governor, I will oppose the deployment of our National Guard in wars that Congress has not declared. I will support defederalization of the New York National Guard so it can focus on service in New York State, where the Guard is needed for national security and to aid in the event of natural disasters. As Governor, I will decline calls to federalize units of the New York National Guard for service in foreign wars until and unless I am presented with an order to do so based on a valid Act of Congress.

I am a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace. VFP is a global organization of military veterans and allies who seek to build a culture of peace. VFP informs the public of the true causes of war and the enormous costs of wars, with an obligation to heal the wounds of wars. Their work includes public education, advocacy for veterans, and opposition to military aggression as an instrument of national policy.

I support cutting the federal military budget by at least 50% and reinvesting that money into domestic needs. Military researchers have warned that global warming is a severe and growing national security threat to the United States. A major portion of the current military budget should be redirected to rapidly converting to 100% clean renewable energy. Other domestic needs a deep military spending cut should meet include a public job for all workers who can't find one in the private sector and funding quality education, housing, infrastructure, and health care for all.

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