Potter military presser

U.S. Senate candidate Sen. Tracy Potter, D-Bismarck, had a news conference in Bismarck today. Here is his official statement:

I said at the start of this campaign that I always want the United States to have the world’s finest air force, finest navy and finest and most nimble army. That is what I will support in the United States Senate. We want the best-equipped, best-trained military in the world, but it need not be the largest and should not be the most thinly spread.

After World War II and throughout the Cold War, America stationed troops throughout the world  bordering Communist states, and fought two hot wars in Korea and Viet Nam. Then the Soviet Union collapsed and the world had one super-power.

Today, while we have troops under fire in Iraq, and actively engaged in Afghanistan, we also maintain 15,000 U.S. Marines on Okinawa and bases and troops throughout the world. Who are those Marines defending Okinawa from? From whom are the troops in Germany defending Germany?

No nation in history has remained strong economically in a state of constant war and with troops stationed around the globe. And a nation that is not strong economically will not remain strong militarily. A strong nation is smart in the application of its strength. America is stronger when it makes investments in America and not military adventures overseas.

We must re-evaluate our military posture around the world and make a smarter deployment of our forces. The re-evaluation begins with Iraq and Afghanistan but includes Okinawa and Germany and other cold war outposts.

The United States must bring them home and treat them right.

George Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove misled us into war in Iraq. It was never in our national interest and it has proved disastrous. I would have voted against authorizing the President to wage a pre-emptive invasion that led to more than 100,000 to half a million Iraqi deaths, 4700 coalition deaths and tens of thousands of our soldiers with physical and mental wounds that might last a lifetime. More than seven years after our invasion, with a trillion dollars charged to our grand-children’s credit cards, we still have 50,000 soldiers there.

The war in Afghanistan is nine years old. We succeeded in the first months in destroying the Taliban government. Now, nine years later, we have over 100,000 soldiers in the middle of a civil war in a nation that is both land-locked and ungovernable. The president has said he will begin to bring them home next July, and we must hold him to that, and then complete the job.

Bring them home and treat them right.

The soldiers who have already come home and the ones to come need our gratitude and our support. To an unprecedented degree our soldiers have come home with stress disorders. Over a third of the first Gulf War’s veterans suffer from a linked series of illnesses that the VA is just beginning to understand. Our experience with Agent Orange in Viet Nam and these late-appearing illnesses from nearly twenty years ago remind us that care for our Veterans is a life-long commitment and one that as a U.S. Senator I will never forget.  

The Post 9/11 GI Bill was a good start, but implementation has been uneven. I’ve had reports of Reservists and Guardsmen who served two terms in Iraq right alongside regular Army soldiers and Marines recently learned to their unpleasant surprise that their educational benefits expire a year earlier than those regulars. Their complaint has been not only the unfairness, but that they were misinformed by the VA and made plans based on the misinformation, leaving them in school but without the promised support.

One reservist veteran of two tours in Iraq recently wrote to me saying, “much has improved since 2005, but so many of my buddies are having major issues five years after ‘coming home.’ One has disappeared into the mountains of Montana, another has killed himself, a few have been divorced, and many have had issues with employment.

Despite all this, few of us want anyone to feel sorry for us, but sometimes my guys feel like Reservists have been discarded after the news crews and Hoeven got the news clip they wanted. We have come to depend on each other more than government or our community.”

Those veterans will be able to depend on my support. Bring them home and treat them right, for a stronger, and more just America.

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