Burlington City Council Apologizes To Veterans
The Associated Press - Published: November 17, 2009
BURLINGTON — The Burlington City Council is telling veterans it's sorry for comments made last week during a Veterans Day ceremony by a stand-in for Mayor Bob Kiss. In an 11-3 vote Monday, the council approved a resolution sponsored by two Republican council members. The Burlington Free Press says the council’s three Progressive Party members voted against the resolution. During the Veterans Day ceremony, peace activist Jon Hausrath advocated conscientious objection and praised war resisters. Burlington Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Bob Colby says the comments weren’t appropriate to the occasion. About 15 veterans attended the council meeting.
I was outraged when I read that “the Burlington City Council is telling veterans it's sorry for comments made last week during a Veterans Day ceremony by a stand-in for Mayor Bob Kiss”.
The City Council has an obligation to protect the rights of its citizens and free speech is one of the most valuable. It is ironic that on a day set aside to honor veterans who believed they were fighting for our rights, the City Council and an organization purporting to support those veterans would move to dishonor their service by depriving them of their freedom here at home.
The Burlington VFW said “the comments weren’t appropriate for the occasion”.
Although the VFW can do whatever they want, I'm wondering what the VFW is about ? I thought they were supposed to help the soldiers who fought in foreign wars. Not all combat wounds are visible. What about the soldiers coming home from the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan? The veteran who refuses to return after experiencing the horrors of that particular war or who questions its legitimacy is still a veteran of that foreign war.
The military argues that there is no excuse for a soldier to go AWOL since they can apply for consciencious objector status. They deny that harassment exists for those who apply. We know the truth about the administrative delays and personal harassment the applicants face and I would hope the VFW does too. Instead this organization, the VFW, that should be helping these same soldiers, turns their back on them and objects to having them mentioned at a Veterans Day ceremony.
Shame on the Burlington VFW.
But also, shame on the Burlington City Council marching lock-step and condemning these soldiers, some locked up in prison, others struggling to support their families while remaining under the radar. They should be proud to have these conscientious, caring men and women in their community. We sent them to war and many experienced horrors nobody should see. Burlington needs to share their soldiers' burdens, not ostracize them.
Who gets to tell the Veterans we are sorry the City Council voted to deny them their right to free speech.