The United West presents Saluting our Military

Tom Trento and The United West held their first Florida event Supporting Our Military in Tallahassee following the end of the Iraq War.

The United West

On Tuesday, January 10th, The United West, held their first salute to service personnel and veterans returning to the Sunshine state following the official end of the War in Iraq on December 31, 2011.  The venue was the magnificently restored House of Representatives chamber in the Old State Capitol Building in Tallahassee on the occasion of the opening day of the 2012 legislative session. The theme of the event was  “When Johnny comes marching home to. . .  what?”

Tom Trento, executive director of The United West noted the purpose of the gathering:

“As we enter a new year and the Florida legislature convenes, it is only fitting that all Floridians join together to honor the men and women who serve and sacrifice each day for us all. Not to recognize their service is a travesty.”  “Florida has experienced the largest deployment of its Reservists and National Guard personnel in history to Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. Central Command, the joint command headquarters for the War in Iraq and Afghanistan (Gulf II), is located at MacDill AFB in Tampa. Florida is home to over 1.8 million active duty, reserve, National Guard and veterans. We honor them all.”

The theme of the program underscored the sacrifices made  by the more than 6,000 killed and 47,000 wounded in the Gulf II conflicts.  The event  focused on providing meaningful rehabilitation and employment opportunities for returning veterans, whose unemployment rates tower over that for the civilian labor force.  Given US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics reports for December 2011, total unemployment for Gulf II war veterans was over 13.1 percent versus 8.5 for the total civilian labor force.  Also of concern is the continuing responsibility for delivery of health care and rehabilitation services to more than 600,000 eligible Gulf II veterans. The Veterans Administration and Congressional Budget Office estimate that care could cost as much as $55 billion over the period from 2011 to 2020.   That would include continuing care for more than 105,000 wounded warriors who suffered grievous disabling injuries requiring extensive rehabilitation and after care.

Those sacrifices by our military in Florida were underscored by two presentations at the Supporting Our Military event in Tallahassee.

Among the more poignant was the presentation by Billie Vaughn of Stewart, Florida father of Navy Seal Officer Aaron Vaughn,  one of 22 Navy Seals lost aboard a Chinook helicopter shot down on August 6, 2011  by Taliban rockets in Afghanistan.  

The finale to the event was the appearance of wounded warrior SSgt. William Castillo who walked in without assistance to address  the assembly.  Castillo exemplified the best among those who have made personal sacrifices to defend this country.  Camillo, an immigrant from Colombia,  spoke about his surviving an RPG attack in Iraq on his Humvee during which he was hit by enemy fire five times and his injuries necessitated removal of the lower portion of his right leg.

While Rep. Alan West (R-FL 22nd CD) could not be present because of scheduling conflicts are not he provided  a video address  that conveyed his support for all colleagues, military and civilian, who value sacrifices made by those who served in the Long War against Islamic terrorism.

The Supporting Our Military event was organized by The United West and sponsored by a number of morale groups expressing appreciation to our military for their valued service and personal sacrifices.

As George Washington said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”