Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Virginia U.S. Senator Webb visits the Vinton War Memorial

Virginia U.S. Senator Jim Webb speaks at Vinton War Memorial

UPDATE from Steve McGraw, Roanoke County Clerk of Court: “Traffic between Dulles airport and downtown D. C. was very bad, so even though he left Roanoke on time, Jim missed the first funding vote in the Senate but was there for the second one.”

In between an event for Sen. Phil Puckett (D-38) and a fundraiser for fellow Marine Sen. John Edwards (D-21) U.S. Senator Jim Webb put politics aside as he spoke to and took questions from veterans at the Vinton War Memorial Monday.

Webb served as a Marine Rifle Platoon Commander in Vietnam and was awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star Metals and two Purple Hearts. He later served as Secretary of the Navy.

He has served on the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations, the Armed Services Committee and the Veteran Affairs Committee. Webb is stepping down from the Senate when his term ends in 2013.

“Don’t take your son to a combat zone,” Webb learned. He brought his son with him to Afghanistan as his photographer. When they returned his son Jimmy enlisted and was sent to Iraq as Webb campaigned in 2006.

Senator Webb said “he felt very strongly that [veterans after 9/11] were the next ‘greatest generation’ and wanted to make sure they had the same opportunity for the future as the ‘greatest generation’.”

Webb worked the post 9/11 GI bill from his first day as a U.S. Senator. He learned quickly how to get things done in a “divided political system.” Along with the help of Republican U.S. Senator John Warner, the bill passed.

“Veterans who served since 9/11 have the best GI bill in history,” said Webb.

Webb estimated that 580,000 members of the armed forces that have served since 9/11 have access to the benefits of the GI bill. “For every tax dollar on WWII GI bill we got seven dollars back of professional output,” was his argument to his colleagues in getting the bill passed.

Korean War Veteran Robert Gray shows candidate for the 17th HOD Freeda Cathcart old photos.

With extended tours in Iraq and Afghanistan Post Traumatic Stress was a big issue in 2006. Webb a Democrat along with former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel introduced the “Dwell Time Amendment.” The legislation basically said that, “no one should have to be deployed if they haven’t been home as long as they’ve been gone,” said Webb. A one-to-one ratio where previously it was a .75-to-one.

“It’s not political – it’s a safety net for the people that served,” said Webb. It got 56 votes, 4 votes short of the 60 needed and they lost. Defense Secretary Robert Gates threatened to recommend vetoing it predicting “force management problems” and fear of another national emergency.

Webb confirmed in response to a question from a veteran that deployment had improved since then and is reaching a two-to-one ratio.

Webb is the Chairman of the Personnel Subcommittee of the Armed Service Committee. He credited the standards he laid down as a committee member for his successful efforts on behalf of all veterans. “The obligation our country made to the people who have served may not be specifically contractual but it is a moral obligation,” he said.

He stayed firm in his position of not denigrating veterans’ health care or changing the 20-year retirement system. “We’re not going to solve the country’s problems on the backs of the people who served,” said Webb.

Robert Gray, 80, a Korean War veteran asked Sen. Webb’s help in including National Guard active duty time (ADT) as part of the 180-day requirement to be eligible for Veterans Administration benefits.

Senator Webb left the Vinton War Memorial and dashed to Fork in the City along with Sen. Edwards. Edwards’ fundraiser immediately followed Webb’s speech. Webb’s attendance there was intended to be brief. He had to get back to Washington to vote on another extension to fund the federal government.

After his two-minute speech supporting fellow Marine John Edwards turned into 5 minutes Webb’s handlers began “prompting” Webb to leave. Webb lingered finally leaving with no hope of making it back to Washington in time but was sure that Majority Leader Harry Reid would hold the vote open for him and others who were out and about.

The Senate approved funding the government until November 18 including the funding for FEMA. It was determined that FEMA would have enough funds to last for the rest of the fiscal year that ends Friday.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Local Events, National, Politics

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