I write in response to Jim Hamilton's letter (Aug. 16, Missoulian). Many military officers continued to serve in government over the last couple hundred years. Retired soldiers and officers retain their constitutional rights as enjoyed by other citizens.
When a group such as VoteVets.org masquerades as a veteran organization and misrepresents a veteran issue, we have the right to speak. We earned the right to call ourselves veterans. Each veteran chooses which party best fits their political philosophy. Some promote Republicans, some support Democrats and others opt for independents or to be apolitical.
Senator John McCain's visit offers veterans an opportunity to voice their concerns directly to lawmakers and participate in a discussion regarding veterans' issues. Though the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans fell to 9.5 percent, the national average for the general public hovers at around 8.2 percent (July 6, Army Times). A roundtable discussion with lawmakers should be praised, not shunned.
"The Role of the Military in Presidential Politics" (Steve Corbett and Michael Davidson, Dec. 2009) suggests that retirees should be restricted in their political speech. The authors concede that the Ninth Circuit Court ruled, "No right of expression is more important to our participatory democracy than political speech." (FEC v. Fulgatch, 807 F.2d 857 (9th Cir., 1987)). Yet, the authors praise retirees who choose not to engage in politics. The authors advocate for more rules, removing veterans from participating in a representative republic.
We waived some of our rights to serve. We bled red blood on the blue battlefield for those 50 stars in the interest of restoring or securing peace when we can put down our arms. Our experiences, perspectives and viewpoints are just as valid as any other citizen's. We have the right to political participation.
I am a retired U.S. Army specialist and the Republican candidate for Montana Senate District 50.