By Frederick A. Peterson III, JD
USMC – Ret.
Also posted in the Fairfax Free Citizen
Seasoned veterans of all services meet with Governor Mike Pence aboard Battleship Wisconsin in Norfolk Harbor to discuss Defense and Veterans Affairs – September 20, 2016.
Some of the military veterans who met with GOP Vie Presidential candidate and Indiana Governor Mike Pence in the Wardroom aboard the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk Harbor on June 20, 2016 (FxFC Photo)

Some of the military veterans who met with GOP Vie Presidential candidate and Indiana Governor Mike Pence in the Wardroom aboard the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk Harbor on June 20, 2016 (FxFC Photo)

Vice Presidential candidate and Indiana Governor Mike Pence set the mood early. He introduced his Marine brother, spoke glowingly of his Marine son, now deployed, and his deep respect for his father’s distinguished service in the Army. A gathering of about 25 experienced military officers and war veterans gathered within the historic hull of the USS Wisconsin, a vintage battleship, sheltered from the driving rain and dark grey skies enveloping the Norfolk Harbor. They heard a message of affirmation, commitment, and hope, and helped express their experience and concerns to the Trump campaign.

Though unspoken, contrast with the Clinton campaign was both obvious and unnecessary to note. This was a group of—“Deplorables”—that has paid its dues to liberty and was unwilling to watch that American dream fade into memory or be intimidated into silence through intimidation without an effort to Make America Great Again. One veteran alluded to this election and the group of veteran patriots as gathered in a ‘Valley Forge Moment.’ If they failed in November to recapture the True America, perceived as fading and at a turning point, there may not be another chance to recover.

The stormy setting of the day was almost metaphorical, as the assessments, lively discussions, and interplay of ideas drew a dire picture of depletion, disrespect, mis-focus, multiple strategic threats, and lack of responsiveness to the urgent care and needs of the Veteran. Pence related the heart rending case of a Hoosier Guardsman who returned from Afghanistan, went to a movie with brothers, and committed suicide at home that night. TWENTY of these veteran suicides occur daily. Pence himself quavered in emotion with the telling and strenuously pledged the solemn commitment of a Trump Administration to vigorously and determinedly solving this moral problem while fulfilling the duty of government to commit to those who have committed their lives to our defense.

Personal stories abounded in the bon homme of the inter-service group while deep concerns were shared regarding the ability of the current defense establishment to correctly, properly, and effectively address multiple and growing strategic threats. Some questioned not only leaderless, meandering policies but suspected motives counterproductive to the interests of American security and defense.

USS Wisconsin, BB-64, hosted the Pence roundtable with veterans on September 20, 2016 (FxFC Photo)

The USS Wisconsin, BB-64, hosted the Pence Battleship Gathering with veterans in Norfolk Harbor on September 20, 2016 (FxFC Photo)

A recommendation was made to immediately convene a select board of experienced, distinguished, retired officers to conduct an urgent assessment of the current services’ status and morale, identify key fulcrums of failure—and success—, and recommend reform and rebuilding, concurrent with new status and mission assessments. New ideas—with affirmation of old values—are needed, was a common comment. The focus and sense of the group was on ‘recapturing the warrior spirit’ which is widely seen to be compromised by careerism, political predations, and social experimentation often at odds with the needs of the services, their traditional mission, and the country. At NO time was global warming or climate change discussed as a strategic priority. Nor were transgender pocketbooks and tattered dungaree fashion collections for Navy Chiefs.

Manning levels, equipment tables, inter-service collaboration, basing issues, force structure were all explored and more formal examination urged. Veterans Administration interplay with market alternatives and supplemental services are also within the purview of this perspective Retired Officers Project. Its conclusions and recommendations would precede dispositive Defense Policy initiatives of the prospective Trump Administration.

Another urgent need discussed by the group was a thoroughly redesigned and realistic strategic threat assessment, not only for Global Jihad and Radical Islam in all their insidious iterations, but also for Chinese and Russian adventurism and predatory acquisitions currently ignored or ineffectively addressed. Essentially, a rational plan and force structures to administer that plan were readily recognized as dangerously lacking and immediately needed.

In a wrap-up of this very energized session, Governor Pence reiterated his—and Mr. Trump’s—solemn commitment to the veteran and to recapturing the message and example of America to and for the world.

The Pence Battleship Gathering concluded in a closer bonding among its attendees and commitments widely expressed to move forward to November with reinforced purpose—and a plan.

About the Author

Frederick A. Peterson III, JD is a Senior Congressional Defense and Counter Terror Advisor and a frequent MultiMedia Commentator and Public Speaker on Security and Defense Policy issues. A former Marine Corps Officer and decorated combat veteran, Peterson has held senior management positions in major corporations and Universities, developed and holds Patents on security technology and is a Principled and Passionate Believer in defense of, and advocacy for, Constitutional Liberty.

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