Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard made her fourth visit to Iowa this weekend, focusing her remarks at a Des Moines town hall primarily on veterans’ issues and the cost of war.
Gabbard, who served two tours in the Middle East, has a personal perspective on the topic.
“I can tell you as a veteran … I’ve seen the cost of war first-hand,” Gabbard said. “I served in a medical unit that first deployed to Iraq in 2005, where every day I was confronted with that high human cost of war. It takes a toll on my brothers and sisters in uniform. The cost of those who we went there with but who did not come home, never were able to say that final goodbye to their loved ones.”
One attendee, Jesus Manuel Valenzuela, is a Marine veteran who served in the 1970s. He came to the rally carrying a folded American flag and dressed in his full Marine dress uniform. Valenzuela asked Gabbard whether she would commit to bring back veterans who were deported from the U.S.
“You’re my sister, you served with me. And I’m your brother,” Valenzuela said.
It was an emotional moment and Gabbard left the stage to hug Valenzuela.
“What does it say about the leaders of this country who dishonor those who put their lives on the line for service to our country?” Gabbard asked. “By shipping them off and kicking them out of the country that they have served. It dishonors the great service and sacrifice that they and their families have made. We need to bring them back home. We need to bring them home.”
Valenzuela said the country needs a commander in chief who will “step up to the plate” and return deported vets to the U.S – he told Starting Line that Gabbard’s answer hit the mark.
“She’s winning there, the other guys got no guts … she’s got it.”
Gabbard took the chance to critique other politicians who don’t follow up on their well-wishes to veterans with policy.
“This is something that is impacting veterans across this country and it affects us personally, because these are our brothers and sisters,” Gabbard said. “You know, every year in November, around Veterans Day, when we hear these politicians say ‘thank you for your service,’ giving fancy and flowery speeches, that sound really, really nice,” Gabbard said.
An audience member interjected – “they don’t mean jack.”
Gabbard repeated the comment.
“They don’t mean jack, unless they’re followed through with action,” Gabbard said. “And that has not been happening.”
Specifically, Gabbard denounced the way veterans are treated when they return home.
“Veterans who come home are still facing unemployment and homelessness, even though veterans are coming home highly trained and highly equipped, leaders,” Gabbard said.
Ed Woolsey of Warren County, who was in attendance Friday, thought having more veterans in the race as a positive thing.
“It bodes much better for the future of veterans health care and possibly peace,” Woolsey said. “We’ve been a nation at war since our inception. It’s time to quit that. The wars have been predominately to support large corporations. I think it’s time to cut the crap, bring the troops home, and to start acting like a responsible global citizen. I think [Gabbard] understands that.”
by Jake Bullington