KANTORSKI: Veterans Day Speaker COL Clair Squandered an Opportunity

Submitted by Joe Kantorski

RE: Politicized Veterans Day Speeches Spark Reactions in Greenwich, Greenwich Free Press, Nov 11, 2021

In January 1968 I was drafted into the United States Army. As a conscientious objector, I could not be assigned to active duties that required the use of firearms. I did Basic Training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, and was trained there as a field medic, and received further training as an Operating Room Technician. My final duty assignment was to the 31st Surgical Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany. I was honorably discharged from active duty in January, 1970 and I am a member of the American Legion.

I speak here as a veteran whose appreciation for and love for our country, our institutions, aspirations, history and our Constitution only grew during my years of service in the Army. It was with pride that I swore in the oath of enlistment “…that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

It was then with a profound sense of disappointment and opportunity lost that Retired Colonel Alan Clair, the keynote speaker at the Town’s Veterans Day ceremony chose to turn his remarks into yet another reason to divide us. I came to honor my fellow veterans and their service, not to hear political talking points.

I agree with those who had the same reaction to the Colonel’s speech in the November 11th article, and I too hope that “the next ceremony to honor veterans will be a ceremony to honor veterans.”

If what Colonel Clair said was disappointing, the real disappointment for me was what he didn’t say—the squandered opportunity to connect the wars our veterans fought in to keep us free, to the war we must now fight to preserve our democracy, to defeat those “domestic enemies” who are determined to destroy those very freedoms. The images of the January 6th insurrection show the Capitol building under attack, but the insurrectionists’ real goal was to overturn the voice of the people. The voice our veterans fought and died for.

As a fellow veteran I have great respect for the Colonel and his service to the country, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. His reputation and experience exemplify why we hold the military in such high regard.

Because of this, I feel his voice would have been of great value to speak of the January 6th insurrection and place it in the context of the grave dangers to our freedoms those events portrayed. The insurrectionists were there to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and assassinate the Vice President of the United States, first in line of succession to the President, and the Speaker of the House, second in line of succession to the President.

Imagine what weight his remarks would have had if he spoke about these facts, and thrown his support to the January 6th Commission’s mandate to learn the truth about those who planned and participated in the insurrection. Attacks on our troops demand detailed after action reports. This attack on the Vice president and the Speaker of the House is certainly no exception.

The Colonel urged us to contact our elected representatives about our concerns. That has always been good advice, but it’s never been more vital than now because the stakes have never been higher. What’s at stake is who and what we are as a country. Self-government demands that we stay informed about the dangers our free and fair elections face, do everything in our power to act on that knowledge and hold our representatives to their oaths to … “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

As a combat veteran, I trust that the Colonel understands the seriousness of the attack on our democracy so graphically illustrated on January 6th, and the subsequent legal efforts to suppress the vote and even overturn an election’s results. I trust that he is alarmed that the attacks are coming from our fellow citizens… that he knows our response demands urgency. That supporting the after action report from the January 6th commission has nothing to do with politics. The attackers didn’t care whether the Vice president or the Speaker had an R or a D after their names.

These times demand one other thing. We have to get back to listening to each other, to understanding that we are all in this together. We breathe the same air and expect to enjoy the same freedoms. If some of us can’t vote, someday you won’t be able to vote. If my state’s election results can be overturned, your state’s results could also be overturned.

Free and fair elections are the lifeblood of democracy. If we value what America is, we have no choice but to do whatever it takes to ensure our elections remain free and fair. Nothing else is more important.