The following story from the Contra Costa Times unfairly appears to criticize Mayor McLaughlin for her choice of Veteran’s Day activities.
Apparently, the mayor has chosen to exercise her First Amendment rights that veterans have fought for the last 200+ years by joining an Occupy Wall Street rally in Richmond. That’s a good choice and an appropriate way to remember veterans. I don’t know a lot of veterans who believe what they fought for was for 1% of Americans to own most of the country’s wealth and reduce the other 99% to second class citizen status.
I accepted an invitation to participate in another event, the re-enactment of the launching of the Red Oak Victory, but I am not looking at it as a holier than thou opportunity. It’s just a different way of recognizing Veterans Day.
I happen to be a Vietnam Veteran, and I am proud of my service, which was recognized by my government with, among other things, a Bronze Star and an Army Commendation Medal. I busted my ass to do a good job, which, as a Corps of Engineers combat engineer officer was building infrastructure all over the south part of South Vietnam – highways, ports, bridges airfields, defensive works and operational facilities. At the same time, I knew that getting into that war was one of the stupidest things America had ever done. I guess I just gave my government the benefit of the doubt and did my duty.
But I have never held it against others who demonstrated their patriotism by dodging the draft or participating in the anti-war movement. The way I look at it, we were all doing our duty as Americans, just in different ways.
Trying to divide up and rate people on how they choose to celebrate our freedoms and those who fought for and won them is neither healthy nor in the best interest of America. Our country’s tradition is to challenge power that is being wielded unfairly or unwisely. Without those who challenge it, be they the Minutemen of 1776 or the Occupiers of 2011, this is what America is all about.
Happy Veteran’s Day! I don’t care how you celebrate it, just do something meaningful.
Richmond Mayor to skip Veterans Day events for Occupy rally
Posted: 11/09/2011 5:30 PM
Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin will skip a Veterans Day memorial to attend an Occupy rally a decision that is drawing criticism.
Chevron and the Richmond Museum Association are sponsoring a Veterans Day salute Friday featuring a re-enactment of the launch of a World War II-era ship at the Richmond shipyards.
McLaughlin noted that the city is not sponsoring the event, and said that the Occupy rally will honor Scott Olsen, the Iraq War veteran injured while protesting with Occupy Oakland,
"I choose to honor our veterans, not only on Veteran's Day, but daily, by supporting an end to military warfare to prevent further fighting and dying in needless wars," McLaughlin wrote in an e-mail. "I am a strong supporter of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Vets Against the War."
The Occupy rally, which organizers are calling a "speak out," is scheduled for 11 a.m., the same time as the Veterans Day events, which are always held at the eleventh hour on the 11th day of November to commemorate the end of World War I.
Jeff Rubin, who organizes Pinole's Veterans Day memorial, denounced McLaughlin's choice and criticized an e-mail blast she sent over the weekend urging residents to attend the rally with her.
"She has very little respect for the country and traditions," Rubin said. "Everything with her is political. I think the day was picked on purpose."
McLaughlin did not call the rally and does not know why organizers chose the date. Rubin notes that she is closely associated with the Richmond Progressive Alliance, which organized the event with a coalition of local activists.
"As mayor she has a responsibility to everyone in our community," Rubin said. "Not only the disenfranchised and the unemployed, but to the veterans as well."
Michael Klasno, director of Gold Star Dads of America, said that McLaughlin's actions are a "slap in the face" to veterans and to grieving parents like himself.
"You don't blow off the veterans of the United States for anybody, and you certainly don't blow if off for Occupy Wall Street," he said. "As somebody who's paid the ultimate sacrifice, that to me is beyond the pale."
McLaughlin said exercising freedom is respectful of veterans.
"I think a good way to show respect for our veterans is to put all our energy into promoting the values that veterans fought for and some of them died for."
Other elected leaders such as councilman Tom Butt and supervisor John Gioia are promoting the Veterans Day salute.
McLaughlin has participated in the city's two previous Occupy rallies.
Contact Hannah Dreier at 510-262-2787. Follow her at Twitter.com/hannahdreier