Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), and media personality Sarah Palin recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the One Million Vets March in Washington, DC. Organizers have claimed that these people hijacked the protest on Sunday. (Image Source: Reuters)
What is often sad about the plight of veterans in America is that the people speaking loudest for them are often the people most likely to use them as political tools to front a certain agenda, while their needs (particularly in health care and jobs) are often ignored. This is a problem with both parties, and you will find examples over the last couple decades of one politician or another hijacking a veterans event to support their specific beliefs and agenda. The most recent heinous display of this hijacking was with the One Million Vet March, a protest against the government shutdown which turned into a raucous event thanks to the presence of Tea Partiers such as Sarah Palin and Senator Ted Cruz. Organizers for the event are now saying that their presence was not welcomed at all.
The original premise of the One Million Vet March was quite simple: Several memorials dedicated to America's wars were closed as a result of the government shutdown, which is now in its 14th day. These included all the memorials in Washington D.C., such as the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. The government has argued that the closures are due to the near-complete shutdown of the National Park Service, and thus make it impossible for security to guard all the memorials. The One Million Vet March was intended to protest these closures, noting that most of the memorials never had security to begin with.
However, at the main event in Washington, DC, a Tea Party-affiliated organizer called in Sarah Palin, a half-term governor from Alaska whose one claim to fame is being on the losing ticket in the 2008 Presidential election, as well as Senator Ted Cruz. When they announced their appearances, their supporters, who had no particular interest in veterans and were more interested in attacking President Barack Obama, came in droves. What followed was pretty unfortunate: Speeches that could only be described as hateful, attempts to take out the barricades around the World War II Memorial, and other obnoxious behavior.
Since then, the organizers of the One Million Vet March have distanced themselves from the Tea Partiers, saying on their website that the Tea Party organizer's efforts were "not in alignment with our message." These people simply wanted to reopen the memorials, not create a protest against the federal government. But this is not to be surprising from the Tea Party's side: While they claim to back the veterans, neither Ted Cruz nor his partner in Senate Mike Lee of Utah have served in the military (and the odds are likely that Lee would likely have sought a religious deferment if he were drafted). Sarah Palin, of course, has never served anything for more than a couple years. They were not interested in the veterans, merely that they were a large crowd of "patriots" they could use to advance their agenda. Their actions are far more disgusting and insulting to the military and veterans than anything an anti-war protester could come up with.