I’m an independent voter and a proud father of an Iraq war veteran.
As the father of a veteran who was injured at war, I don’t believe we can ever do enough to honor and thank our American heroes who sacrifice so much — sometimes everything — to protect our freedom.
Unfortunately, as we learn more and more about the ongoing crisis within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it’s clear that we have not been living up to our promises or duties to our soldiers. This crisis is disgraceful and a black eye for this country.
What is also disgraceful is how politicians like Gov. Paul LePage and Eliot Cutler are trying to use this crisis and the hardship of our veterans to score political points in an election year. I’ve been disgusted in recent weeks as both LePage and Cutler have used veterans, like my son who served this country with dignity, as political pawns to place blame for the crisis on U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who is the only one out of the three who has been working in a bipartisan manner in Congress to truly to get answers for our veterans.
It’s shameful, especially, for them to attack a man like Michaud who has done so much for Maine veterans and who has proven his commitment to them. His work on behalf of our nation’s veterans extends far beyond his duties in the halls of Congress or on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
I know I’ll never forget when I first met Michaud.
My son had been shot by a sniper while serving an extended tour of duty in Iraq in 2007.
It was a horrible time for our family. We were thankful our son was alive, fearful of something going wrong during one of his many surgeries and worried about what impact his injury would have on him for the rest of his life.
Michaud was the first person at Walter Reed Medical Center to see how he was doing and if he needed anything.
I’m forever grateful to Michaud for his kindness and concern. Unlike many politicians, he didn’t come to Walter Reed for a photo opportunity or to get in the newspaper.
In fact, I don’t know if he ever made it public he was there.
He came because of concern for my family, the gratitude he felt for my son’s sacrifice for our country and a deep commitment to ensuring veterans get the care and respect they deserve after risking all for our freedoms.
My experience with Michaud is not unique.
Yes, he’s been a champion for veterans legislatively. He’s worked to hold the VA accountable; fought for reforms that will ensure veterans get better care; pushed for increased and advanced funding for veterans health care; worked to address veterans homelessness; and he’s worked to increase economic opportunity for veterans.
In total, he’s proposed or co-sponsored more than 500 pieces of legislation to address important issues facing veterans today.
Michaud goes out of his way to be there for our veterans, whether it’s taking a late-night call about an issue regarding a veteran in his district, surprising one of our veterans for his birthday or visiting a wounded soldier and his family at the hospital after being injured at war. Michaud has always treated veterans with the care and respect they deserve.
It’s time his political opponents treated them the same way.
Gregg Buckland of Detroit has been an EMT and firefighter. He served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.