State Senator Steve Russell joined forces this week with other decorated military veterans for the ten-day (Oct. 19-28) East Coast “We Can Do Better” tour to generate awareness of the mounting challenges facing service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as veterans of all generations.
“I’m proud to be a part of this national effort to help educate the public about issues affecting our country’s brave men and women. They sacrifice so much and, unfortunately, our government does little for them in return,” said Russell, R-Oklahoma City. “Monuments are raised in their honor and parades are held when they return from service, but our government must do more to ensure their financial, health and emotional needs are met when they get home.”
The bus tour, sponsored by Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), will allow veterans and citizens in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Ohio—and across the nation—to hear directly from leaders in the veterans’ community about critical issues including high veterans unemployment, especially among younger vets; persistent military voting problems; growing Veterans Affairs (VA) claims backlog; foreign policy: Libya, Afghanistan, etc.; looming ‘national security’ cuts, known as ‘sequestration’; and implications of a $16 trillion national debt. CVA is a nation-wide, non-profit veterans organization established to advocate for policies that will preserve the freedom, liberty, and prosperity that veterans and their families have so proudly fought and sacrificed to defend.
“I’m concerned about America’s future and so are many other citizens and veterans. The mission of this organization is to translate the experience, concerns and hopes of our fellow veterans with the public and provide a new and unique perspective on the issues that threaten to cripple not only our economic and national security, but the spirit of opportunity and liberty that we, and thousands before us, fought to defend,” said Russell. “There is a strong belief that the freedoms we’ve defended – that our friends and loved ones suffered and died for – are threatened by the irresponsibility, broken promises, and misguided priorities in Washington. We need leaders who will fight just as hard for veterans as those soldiers fight to protect the freedoms of their fellow citizens.”
Russell will be joining Concerned Veterans of America CEO Pete Hegseth on the tour. Hegseth is a former Executive Director of Russell’s nonprofit Vets For Freedom and a senior counterinsurgency instructor at the Counterinsurgency Training Center in Kabul with the Minnesota National Guard. Hegseth has made multiple appearances on national television as a military analyst. He is currently the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America. The duo will also be joined by Jane Horton, an Oklahoma Gold Star Mother whose husband was killed in Afghanistan last year.
The evening before the tour ends, Russell will be honored at the National Veteran’s Banquet in Washington, D.C. with the Paul R. Smith Award for his service in Iraq and role in the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein. Last year’s recipient was General David Petreaus.
Paul R. Smith (September 24, 1969 – April 4, 2003) was a U.S. Army Sergeant First Class who posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in Operation Iraqi Freedom. While serving with B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad, Iraq his team was attacked by a group of Iraqi fighters and after a short firefight he was killed by Iraqi fire. Two years later, the medal, along with the newly approved Medal of Honor flag, were presented to his family; specifically to his eleven year old son David, at a White House ceremony by the President of the United States George W. Bush.
Russell will also be leading a panel on veteran’s issues earlier in the day. The banquet will be covered by the Pentagon Channel. To learn more about the “We Can Do Better” tour, visit www.concernedveteransforamerica.org.