September 10, 2008 – With Republicans and Democrats battling for every vote in the final months of the presidential election, both parties are courting veterans for their support.
The Veterans for McCain Ohio bus tour pulled into Toledo early yesterday morning. Aboard was retired U.S. Air Force Col. Tom Moe, who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam with Republican candidate John McCain.
Mr. Moe, who lives in Lancaster, Ohio, was in the national spotlight when GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin spoke of his experience with Mr. McCain in her speech at the Republican National Convention.
“As the story is told,” Mrs. Palin said, “when Mr. McCain shuffled back from torturous interrogations, he would turn toward Moe’s door and flash a grin and thumbs-up as if to say, ‘We’re going to pull through this.’ My fellow Americans, that is the kind of man America needs to see us through these next four years.”
Mr. Moe, who is serving as chairman of Ohio Veterans for McCain, posed for photographs, shook hands, and signed T-shirts for several dozen people outside the Lucas County Republican Party headquarters at 10 S. Superior St. downtown.
Many of the people there wore uniforms, hats, or T-shirts declaring their military affiliation.
“We can never tell [Mr. Moe] thanks enough for what he did,” said Bob Brenot, 71, of Toledo, who attended the event with several fellow members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 66. Mr. Brenot served in the U.S. Navy from 1955 to 1959.
Mr. Moe said Mr. McCain’s experience during his years in Vietnam shows his strength, resolve, and ability to stand up to tremendous adversity.
“It speaks volumes to this man’s courage,” he said.
Mr. Moe, an Air Force pilot, was shot down in January, 1968, and spent five years in the “Hanoi Hilton” with Mr. McCain, until March of 1973.
Tom Morgan, chairman of the Lucas County Veterans for McCain group, said this election has mobilized veterans. Both campaigns have Web sites aimed at veterans with information such as how to go about absentee voting.
But Mr. McCain’s veteran status doesn’t mean he has a lock on veterans’ votes.
Jason Graven, who served in Iraq from 2003 until 2004, said he plans to vote for Democratic candidate Barack Obama for a number of reasons, including Mr. Obama’s support of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“His voting record shows his genuine care for the veterans of our country,” said Mr. Graven, 28, a University of Toledo student. Mr. Graven spoke at a press conference for veterans in support of Mr. Obama yesterday afternoon at VFW Post 2510 in East Toledo.
Veterans have a number of special needs that the government must address, said Jeffrey Crowther, who attended the press conference in support of Mr. Obama.
“Veterans’ issues are very unique,” he said, such as a need for good health care through the VA system, reintegration into civilian life, and education.