Will there be a new Iraq Veterans Congressional Caucus? A coalition of 16 Iraq War Veterans have united to support each other for a run at Capitol Hill.
In a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. last week, timed to coincide with the arrival of Gen. David Petreus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker to Capitol Hill, six members of “Iraq Veterans for Congress,” IVC, outlined their frustration over the lack of representation in Congress of the new generation of veterans.
Ron Griffin, Gold Star Father and a Co-Chair of Families United introduced the group and said, “This is to lay the groundwork to present these men as the decent human beings that they are. The sacrifice and courage of these men is immeasurable.”
Marine Cpl. Kieran Michael Lalor, founder of IVC said, “Each of us here would stake our lives for Gen. Petraeus, would you stake yours on Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha — Clinton or Obama?”
Lalor, who lives in the north Hudson Valley district of New York, home of Gen. Petraeus, had a sister in the north tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, and has another sister whose birthday is on 9/11. He remembers, vividly, the events that day: “My sister that was at work had baked a birthday cake for my other sister and they were going to celebrate by going to the Yankee’s game that night, Roger Clemens was going for his 20th win of the season; obviously events that day changed everything.”
Lalor, a union security-worker and former Social Studies teacher labored his way through law school and is raising a family. He has a 20 month-old and a six-month-old. And now he is running a campaign for congress.
Griffin, who lost a son in Iraq — Spec. Kyle A. Griffiin whose birthday was also on 9/11– ran into one of the candidates while visiting in Iraq. Army Sgt. Vince Micco was assigned to the same unit as Griffin’s son when Kyle Griffin died. Ironically they live only eight miles apart from each other in New Jersey.
Micco from New Jersey’s 9th congressional district ran two years ago for congress and was only one of two pro-victory Iraq veterans running in 2006. He sees better hope this time. “I learned a lot last time and the news is different today, things are going much better this time,” said Micco.
Micco, a mortgage banker, husband and father of four children has served in Iraq in spite of his domestic responsibilities, deploying to hot-spots like: Tikrit, Baghdad and Ramadi in counter intelligence, turning foes into friends, and has seen the resurrection of the Iraq War into a hopeful venture to spread democracy in the middle-east.
“They each have a story to tell about family members being whisked away in the middle of the night — to be raped, tortured or killed — for even being suspected of having opinions counter to the Saddam government.”
“When the youth of that country grows up, we will have a powerful ally, the children love us.” — Sgt. Vince Micco
Lt. Col. William Russell, an Airborne Ranger, husband, father and small business owner has a tougher fight on his hands in his congressional race than he had in Iraq. Russell will be going against congressional fixture, Rep. John Murtha Penn. — 12th.
Murtha, who is most famous for his falsely accusing Marines of atrocities in an incident in Haditha, Iraq, has been in Congress for 34 years and is one of the biggest recipients of pork spending, more than $149 million in fiscal year 2008. This has earned him the honor of “King of Pork 2007” from Citizens Against Government Waste. Murtha has not had a competitive race since his first one in 1974.
“John Murtha has given the seal of approval for anti-American propaganda,” said Russell. “He has given the enemy the will to keep fighting; as a former intelligence officer I know the value of propaganda.”
“Out of all of the pork this man has brought to this district, the biggest contribution he has to show is that our main export is college graduates.” — Lt. Col. William Russell
“Hopefully, most Americans will never see, first hand, like us, what the face of radical Islam looks like,” said Navy Cdr. Duane Sand, who is running for North Dakota’s only congressional seat. “This conflict is not just about us, the United States; it is about Europe, Asia and Africa. While we are at war, we should have a Congress that has veteran representation (from that conflict).”
“What I can say about our organization is that we get it. We are from diverse backgrounds and we are not one-issue candidates,” said Army Capt. Tom Roughneen, a former assistant prosecutor in Union and Essex Counties New Jersey. “The military is about the only government institution with a favorable rating.”
With the patience of the country wearing thin and members of Congress openly irritated about the lack of Iraqi involvement, Roughneen has a difference of opinion. “For anyone to say that the Iraqis are not stepping forward, they are just dead wrong. Tell that to the families of Sheikh Migbel or Ahmed, one of which I was responsible for having arrested, who lost their lives for supplying us with intelligence,” said Roughneen.
Roughneen also witnessed the very first opening, ever, of a girl’s secondary school in the Sunni Triangle district of Balad. “Nobody, more than us want to see our troops home and this war to end,” said Roughneen.
The IVC has raised more than $25,000 since its formation just a few months ago. For more information on IVC or to contribute: www.iraqvetsforcongress.com
This is the first in a series that we will feature on IVC and their candidates.
CA 52nd — Duncan D. Hunter, son of former presidential candidate Duncan L. Hunter will be attempting to replace his retiring father. Hunter will be facing a primary battle before the general election. He has opponents in Santee City Councilman, Brian Jones; San Diego County Board of Education member, Bob Watkins; and, small business owner, Rick Powell. Hunter is polling strong in his district and has raised around $500,000 so far.
CO 5th — Bentley Rayburn will be opposing Rep. Doug Lamborn who he had a nasty primary fight with his opponents in 2006. Many of Lamborn’s opponents had accused him of dirty campaigning then, including Jeff Crank who is also in this years GOP contest and lost by less than a thousand votes.
CO 6th — Mike Coffman will be running for the seat vacated by Rep. Tom Tancredo. The primary election is against mortgage broker, Wil Armstrong, son of former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong; state Sen. Ted Harvey; and state Sen. Steve Ward. Preliminary polls show Coffman at 44 percent and he has won state-wide office three times and is currently secretary of state.
FL 22nd — Allen West will be trying to unseat first-term Congressman Ron Klein. This district had been Republican until Rep. Mark Foley had been caught up in the “page scandal.”
ID 1st — Matt Salisbury will be trying to unseat a sitting Republican Rep. Bill Sali who had a hotly contested primary among seven candidates in 2006. Salisbury’s issue with Sali is the lobbyist money he has taken and not being in touch with the people. Walt Minnick will be the Democratic candidate who lost the last race for senate against Sen. Larry Craig.
IN 7th — Wayne E. Harmon will make an attempt to win a congressional seat that had been held by Rep. Julia Carson for six terms until her death last year. The last Republican to run here was football player, Eric Dickerson who gave her a run for her money.
19th — Kieran Michael Lalor is facing first-term Rep. Tom Hall who is best known as the former rock band singer of the group Orleans in the 1970s. Hall has brought in celebrity figures such as David Crosby from Crosby, Stills and Nash for fundraising and star-power.
NY 1st — Lee Zeldin has the backing of the local GOP and is trying to un-seat Rep. Tim Bishop who is in his third term as congressman of New York’s first district. Zeldin is a Capt. In the Army Reserves, attorney, husband and father of twin daughters.