Dozens of veterans and their families - perhaps 150 people total - turned out Thursday night for the Idaho Veterans for Obama kickoff at Boise's Veterans Memorial Park.
The evening was emceed by Obama organizer T.J. Thomson - who is now chair of the Idaho Veterans for Obama - and featured speeches by former Hillary Clinton state chairman and Vietnam veteran John Greenfield; former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, a Korean War veteran; and U.S. Senate candidate Larry LaRocco, an Army captain in Germany during the Vietnam era. All emphasized the idea that intellect, judgment, and character - not military service - is what Americans look for in a president, and that Barack Obama is a better choice than John McCain on all those counts. Greenfield said that while all Americans honor McCain and his service, he is "110 percent" behind Obama as the wisest, most competent candidate in the race.
Thomson added that Obama has a family history of military service (his grandfather served with Gen. George Patton in World War II), that he sought membership on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and that he introduced the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act in the wake of the Walter Reed Hospital scandal. (Click here to read more about Obama's stands on veterans' affairs and here to access the Veterans for Obama web page.)
Senate candidate Larry LaRocco noted that it was Larry Craig's inattention to veterans' issues that first inspired him to run for Senate, and it's an issue that keeps him going despite Craig's decision not to seek another term. Recounting his firsthand encounter with terrorism at the hands of the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany, LaRocco - who has been endorsed by Wes Clark and Max Cleland - vowed to do his utmost to serve Idaho's active-duty military personnel and veterans. LaRocco expressed his support for increased pay and educational benefits for veterans; fully funded Tricare; more focus on treatment for traumatic brain injuries; counseling for veterans, including Guard and Reserve members; an increase in the mileage reimbursement for travel to health care appointments; and serious oversight "when it comes to sending troops into harm's way."
Others on hand for Thursday's kickoff included U.S House candidate Debbie Holmes; Marine veteran Greg Funk, who is running for the state Legislature in District 15; and state Rep. (and state Senate candidate) Nicole LeFavour, whose partner Carol Growhoski is a veteran.