Sunday, January 13, 2008

Colonel Wingard US Army retired supports Hillary

Hillary Clinton best choice for president

Morning News, Florence, SC

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Opinion Editorial

Barringer F. Wingard, Jr., US Army Retired

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2004 elections. I first voted in 1968, and in the next nine elections, every four years through 2000, I vigorously and happily supported the republican. (I supported McCain, but reluctantly voted for Bush when he got the nomination). But, the Bush-Cheney cabal changed all that.

The foremost reason was the unnecessary Iraq invasion. Second, if I accepted the invasion of Iraq was in our national interest, was the way the administration disregarded the advice of military experts, ultimately mistreating and humiliating bona fide heroes like General Eric Shinseki. Another major contributing factor that soured me on this administration was the abysmal treatment of and disdain for veterans.

So in 2004, for the first time in the presidential election, this retired Soldier eagerly voted for the democrat. Today, my vehicles and lapel pins proudly proclaim, “Veterans for Hillary.” This sometimes leads to comments, even occasional chiding, expressed as, “How can you support her?!” Besides being the best candidate to be president, my answer is, “She supports us.”

In fact, Clinton’s US Senate record is unsurpassed in its support of military, veterans, and their families. There’s a reason the American Legion named Senator Clinton as an “unsung hero” of the 108th Congress.

Her history of fighting for veterans extends to her days as First Lady when she called attention to Gulf War Syndrome. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, she’s a fixture on bills making lives better for the extended military family. Clinton led the fight for legislation securing additional support for disabled veterans, increasing funding for VA hospitals, and victoriously fighting administration attempts to increase prescription drug payments.

Clinton’s efforts led to health tracking systems for active, National Guard, and reserve personnel to secure means for regular treatment. Of significance, she crossed party lines to work with Lindsay Graham expanding healthcare benefit opportunities for National Guard and reserve personnel.

Her Heroes at Home legislation hugely benefits our returning warriors. First, it provided family members of Soldiers suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) with basic skills and training to better assist loved ones. Next, it enhanced the detection, assessment, and treatment of TBI while expanding support systems for service members and their families. Third, the Heroes bill identified paths to help Guard and reservists transition into civilian life.

As a result of Clinton’s efforts, the survivor benefit was raised from $12,000 to $100,000. It was Clinton who initiated a petition to the Postmaster General that compelled the Postal Service to continue recognizing our wounded with the Purple Heart Stamp.

Clinton’s focus on the future is evidenced by introduction of the Gold Star Parents Annuity Act that provides monthly stipends to parents whose son or daughter made the ultimate sacrifice. Other legislation enables service members deployed to a combat zone, or hospitalized as a result of that service, means for families to receive free postage on some mail or packages.

Clinton’s agenda as president includes implementing a new GI Bill of Rights with less red tape to access the VA, micro-loans for small business start ups, expanded home ownership opportunities, protection against predatory lenders, and educational scholarships. She seeks guaranteed, mandatory funding for veterans’ healthcare, relieving the VA of annual fights for funds to treat wounded. She will reverse the current administration’s attempts to hold down pay raises by promoting war time pay raises to eliminate the need for troops to rely on food stamps.

Nearly three years ago in Afghanistan, I was part of a briefing team for a delegation of five US Senators, including Clinton, John McCain, and SC’s Lindsay Graham. While I have the utmost respect for McCain and Graham, my foremost memory of that encounter is just how extraordinary Clinton was. And, it was not just me. During the “hot-wash” following the briefing and question and answer period, the general consensus of the team of military officers was that Clinton was most prepared, surprisingly astute, highly intelligent, and…most important…genuinely interested in our message and what we were trying to accomplish.

I like lots about Hillary Clinton. Besides her established, solid record and pledge to fulfill obligations for our military family, I’m excited about her experience on the world stage, her devotion to resolving healthcare concerns, and her incredible work ethic, passion, leadership, and patriotism.

For the first time in my life, I fear America, in most corners of earth, is not considered the greatest country on earth. The USA must regain its stature as the beacon of hope, and Hillary Clinton is best qualified, not only to reach across the political aisles, but to embrace the world and restore our nation’s tarnished image. I look forward to her being our next Commander-in-Chief.

Barringer F. Wingard, Jr. is a retired US Army colonel, who served in Operation Enduring Freedom from January to November, 2005.

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Learn about Senator Clinton's Support for Troops, Veterans, Military Retirees and Families by Clicking Here

Hillary on the Issues

Senator Clinton has a long history of fighting for our veterans. She believes that once service members have fulfilled their duty to our country, our country must fulfill it’s obligation to them. As First Lady, Hillary called attention to Gulf War Syndrome.

As the first member of the Senate Armed Services Committee from New York, she has traveled overseas to witness firsthand the incredible honor and courage of our troops. And in the Senate, she has consistently taken a leading role in improving mental health services, access to medical care, family benefits, and assistance in transitioning to civilian life for our veterans.

As a presidential candidate, Hillary’s Veterans Agenda includes:

A new G.I. Bill of Rights. Hillary has proposed a new bargain with our troops. Her plan would reduce the level of red tape facing our wounded service members and veterans; make available microloans for entrepreneurial ventures up to $100,000; expand opportunities for veterans to purchase, build, repair or improve a home; protect service members against predatory lending, insurance, and other financial practices; and provide educational scholarships for those who have served.

Guaranteed, mandatory funding of our veteran’s healthcare system. Hillary does not think that the Veteran’s Administration should be fighting every year to get the funding necessary to care for our wounded Veterans. She has called for full funding of veterans’ health care, taking into account the fluctuating number of veterans and inflation in each year going forward.

A pay raise for wartime troops. One in five military families rely on food stamps and other public assistance to survive and last year's pay increase for members of the uniformed services was just 2.2 percent, the lowest since 1994. Hillary has called upon President Bush to increase pay for our troops by 3.5%.

A monthly stipend for Gold Star Parents. Hillary introduced the Gold Star Parents Annuity Act, legislation that would provide a $125 monthly stipend to surviving mothers and fathers whose sons or daughters lost their lives while serving in the Armed Forces during a period of war for the rest of their lives.

Free postage for the family and friends of service members. Hillary introduced legislation that provides each service member deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan or hospitalized at a Department of Defense (DOD) facility as a result of service in Iraq or Afghanistan with a voucher every two months that would enable his or her family or friends to send the service member one free package or piece of mail (up to ten pounds).

Senator Hillary Clinton’s Record:

In the Senate, Hillary has championed legislation to improve the lives of our veterans and their families. She has secured funding for Veterans’ hospitals, and secured additional support for disabled veterans. She also successfully fought off the Administration's proposal to double the co-payment for prescription drugs of certain veterans.

She created a health tracking system for all active duty personnel and Reservists to ensure that they receive regular check ups; and expanded access to military healthcare benefits (TRICARE) for all Guard and Reserve members whether they are on active duty or not in order to prevent another illness like Gulf War Syndrome.

She successfully passed her Heroes at Home legislation, which helps family members learn to support loved ones suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), identify ways to help Guardsmen and Reservists transition back to civilian jobs, and assess the mental health challenges – including PTSD – faced by members of the Guard and Reserve. Hillary’s initiative improves the detection, assessment and treatment of traumatic brain injury and expands support systems for members and former members of the Armed Services with traumatic brain injury and their families.

She passed legislation to increase the military survivor benefit from $12,000 to $100,000.

Clinton successfully worked to address Veterans’ mental health needs. In part as a result of her efforts, the Veterans Administration will be directed to take into consideration the needs and concerns of Veterans as it proceeds with the CARES process.

Hilary wrote to Postmaster General John Potter, and launched a petition on her website to urge the Postmaster General to continue issuing the Purple Heart stamp. Hundreds of people signed the petition which were then delivered to Postmaster General John Potter. As a result, the U.S. Postal Service decided to continue printing the Purple Heart Stamp despite the recent rate change.

In recognition of her efforts, the American Legion named Senator Clinton an “unsung hero” of the 108th congress for her leadership in securing record increases in funding for

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