Gille­spie/Cox – Best votes for vets

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OPINION - Bill Flana­gan Colo­nial Heights Viet­nam vet­eran

From my per­spec­tive as a 30-year Army vet, ad­vo­cate for vet­er­ans and 23 years’ ser­vice as Del. Kirk Cox’s Leg­isla­tive Aide, I be­lieve Ed Gille­spie is the best choice for Gover­nor.

As the son of a World War II in­fantry­man & Sil­ver Star re­cip­i­ent and with par­ents buried in a mil­i­tary ceme­tery, Ed knows the value of mil­i­tary ser­vice and sac­ri­fice. As coun­selor to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush (’43), he also knows first-hand the bur­dens and con­cerns a leader has for sol­diers and vet­er­ans who carry the wounds of war. Pres­i­dent Bush re­cently pub­licly praised Ed’s com­pas­sion and abil­ity to get things done.

I have known Ed Gille­spie since 2006 when I served on a com­mit­tee he chaired. He was the most ef­fec­tive chair­man in the 16 years I was on the com­mit­tee – he gets things done. Over the years I have had main­tained contact with Ed and know his strong sup­port for our mil­i­tary and vet­er­ans. I was with Ed and Del. Cox for an ex­ten­sive visit to Fort Lee to get de­tailed in­for­ma­tion on sol­dier to civil­ian tran­si­tion pro­grams and spe­cial sup­port for mil­i­tary chil­dren.

I was also at the Sit­ter Bar­foot Vet­er­ans Care Cen­ter when Gille­spie and Cox went to see one of the most ad­vanced care cen­ters in the na­tion to pro­mote es­tab­lish­ing two new care cen­ters in Vir­ginia. I was also there when they vis­ited McGuire Vet­er­ans Hospi­tal.

In Au­gust 2016, Ed es­tab­lished a Mil­i­tary/Vet­er­ans Pol­icy Group to de­velop a plan to pro­vide bet­ter sup­port to our vet­er­ans, mil­i­tary mem­bers and their fam­i­lies. I had the honor of serv­ing on that group. In July 2017, Ed re­leased his 15 point Vet­er­ans/Mil­i­tary plan (https://ed­forvir­ vet­er­ans), one of 20 plans Ed has to make Vir­ginia a bet­ter place to work, live and raise a fam­ily.

While his op­po­nent stresses his VMI roots and ser­vice as an Army doc­tor, he has done lit­tle for vet­er­ans since. In his six years in the Se­nate he put in three vet­eran re­lated bills. In con­trast, Del. Cox put in an av­er­age of five pieces of vet­eran/mil­i­tary leg­is­la­tion an­nu­ally for over 20 years. Kirk also sat on sev­eral vet­eran/mil­i­tary boards/com­mis­sions over the years and at­tended vir­tu­ally ev­ery meet­ing. Ralph Northam, by con­trast, has a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing AWOL from meet­ings.

The Lt. Gov. has also strayed from his VMI roots. In Septem­ber he re­leased a state­ment sup­port­ing tak­ing down Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues, stress­ing he would be a “vo­cal ad­vo­cate for that ap­proach.” VMI Su­per­in­ten­dent, Gen­eral Peay, USA (Ret) and the Board of Vis­i­tors, voted to keep VMI Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues up, a view con­sis­tent with that sup­ported by Ed Gille­spie. Asked about the views of the VMI com­mu­nity on the de­ci­sion, Peay said “al­most all” of the com­ments he re­ceived came from peo­ple “wor­ried that we will be po­lit­i­cally cor­rect and change some­thing in our his­tory that we should not change.” Peay noted “some­times the best lead­ers don’t make de­ci­sions in times of emo­tions.”

We need a steady leader who makes solid de­ci­sions, has de­tailed plans to lead Vir­ginia for­ward, and the ded­i­ca­tion to make his com­mit­ments. Gover­nor Ed Gille­spie and Speaker Cox will be a very ef­fec­tive team fully sup­port­ing our vet­er­ans and our mil­i­tary in Vir­ginia.

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