EUGENE, Oregon – They are America’s best and brightest. They are in Iraq and Afghanistan and other world hot spots. These men and women are ready to give all they have, and all they ever will have to defend their homeland. Yet, recent protests at the graves of these returning heroes has not gone unnoticed by veterans and active duty members both here and overseas who are outraged.
Soldiers young and old in Eugene area won’t stand for dishonor
In a word, veterans are “outraged” by these disrespectful protests that have been allowed to go on “at the graves of young men and women who’ve returned to America in coffins. Veterans wonder why is this happening now. And, why are Americans turning a blind eye to this dishonor. I will tell you this… there’s a hard rain going to fall if we allow this to continue,” says former Marine Staff Sgt. Steven Raines.
“I’m in touch with Vietnam War vets and others who have kids in the military overseas. I will tell you, they are sick about these protests in America,” Raines said who now lives in Eugene.
At issue are recent protests at the funerals of deceased soldiers by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. Albert Snyder, the father of one of the fallen soldiers who’s family had to endure taunting by church members, has sued this cult church group and awaits a Supreme Court ruling on if such protests at fallen American soldiers’ graves is the type of “freedom” that the founding fathers had in mind.
More outrage from Oregon and national veterans groups – to include the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled Veterans of America and the American Legion – is tied to recent U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that order Snyder to pay $10,510 dollars in legal fees to this cult church group.
“What we have here is the grieving father of a soldier who gave his life fighting terrorism, who now has to pay 10 grand to a group of – I can’t say what – who desecrated the grave and funeral of his son. Now, that’s not America folks. That’s not what we’re all about,” cautioned Raines during a recent interview.
Veterans can never be honored enough for their sacrifice
As the Portland community prepares for tomorrow’s visit by President Barack Obama — who’s hoping to help boost Democrats chances in tight races for Senate, House and the governor’s seat — there will be representatives from Oregon’s veteran population that numbers more than 400,000. Nationally, there are an estimated 8 million veterans, with 1.7 million being women veterans.
“We want to remind the president and the country that if they enjoy America’s freedoms, to be sure to thank a vet,” said Vietnam War veteran Joe Sackett.
While Sackett and other veterans say they don’t have any real grudge with the commander-in-chief, they are miffed that President Obama and other national leaders have not expressed enough outrange over the recent protests at funerals for returning veterans who’ve fallen in battle.
“I don’t think any veteran or any of our troops now serving overseas would appreciate our country’s moot response to these recent protests,” added Sackett. “It’s simply beyond comprehension to think at a time when our country is at war again, that people would sign off on these protests as part of our American freedoms.”
One community that’s drawn a line in the sand, and walks the walk when it comes to honoring veterans is Lincoln City, Oregon. Both the Lincoln City community and its Chinook Winds Casino Resort have, for the past four years, held a massive five-day “Celebration of Honor” for Oregon veterans.
The event just “waters our eyes,” say veterans who attend this celebration of honor.
“I feel a lot of respect today, and that’s something that can’t really be put into words,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jason Obersinner, a full-time member of the Oregon National Guard who participated in these “Celebration of Honor” events last month.
Obsersinner is not someone to mince words about what he and more than two million other American men and women do as America’s military members. And, like most veterans he won’t speak to the recent protests at fallen soldier’s graves due to the respect issue.
“I don’t want to get into politics, but we’ve been over there since Desert Storm to oust a tyrant and a regime that supports terrorism. It’s good to be home, but many of our troops are still over there and we must remember them,” explained Obersinner who’s been deployed to Iraq in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Asking this soldier if he’s done enough tours of duty overseas in the war zone is a no-brainer. Obersinner, who’s been a full-time Oregon National Guardsman these past nine years, just shrugs and says “sure.”
“That’s my job,” adds the soldier in uncompromising tone that’s all serious.
Still, he admits that these four long deployments, as both an infantryman on the front lines and a roads engineer, is tough on his wife Ashley and two sons, Dylan, 6, and Cody, 4. “They understand, and they support me. Today, all of our community supports me and the other troops. That’s a real good thing.”
This pre-Veterans Day observation in Lincoln City comes as the U.S. military is still at war in Afghanistan, with President Obama sending thousands of more troops from Oregon and other states into that war zone.
Disrespect for America’s veterans “can not and must not stand,” say veterans
World War II veteran William “Bill” Conway remembers the aftermath of Pearl Harbor as if it were today. Slowly, Conway submerges himself into those memories and cries.
A short time later, Conway says he’s “sick to the bottom of my very soul” and what America is allowing its citizens to “get away with.” The veteran of what’s been dubbed the “Greatest Generation,” is referencing a story that’s flown under the radar by mainstream media.
“It took place recently down in Ventura, California. There was this grave of a Medal of Honor winner from the 1860’s era who was literally dumped on by locals who allowed their dogs to poop on this hero’s grave. This scorched me. It made me ill and that’s not good for a man of 91 years of age,” explained Conway.
On the up side, adds Conway, “there’s a group of veterans down in Ventura who are trying to get this Medal of Honor winner’s grave moved. They better move it or move those dogs. We as a country should not stand for such blatant disrespect.
The grave in question belongs to Pvt. James Sumner. He was awarded the nation’s highest military honor for gallant actions after a band of Apache Indians kidnapped a settler’s child. He died in 1912, and buried in what was then St. Mary’s Cemetery in Ventura, California.
Prior to a group of veterans complaining about this desecration last month, many of the residents continue to allow their dogs to crap on the grave site that was clearly marked “Medal of Honor” winner, say local officials.