Today, I read an article from the New York Times entitled “Obama won’t commit to event at military base.” The article was written, presumably after a press release announcing the event was disseminated, and states that Senator Obama will not commit to a Presidential Town Hall slated to be convened at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, Texas on August 11th, 2008 at 9:00 pm EST. During this time, CBS has agreed to televise the event live.

As stated in the article, Senator Obama has a previous commitment on that date. And, if you examine his voting record for the rights of military soldiers and their families, he is very supportive. “Senator Obama strongly supports America’s veterans and military families and has worked hard on their behalf in the Senate,” said Phillip Carter, director of Mr. Obama’s veterans effort and an Iraq war veteran. “While we unfortunately had a previously scheduled commitment on the date proposed, Senator Obama looks forward to continuing the dialogue he’s been having throughout the country with veterans on how we can better serve our men and women in uniform as they serve us.” 

Carissa Picard, Managing Director for the 2008 Fort Hood Presidential Town Hall, has been spinning her wheels trying to pull this event together. “I’m having extreme difficulty getting the Obama campaign to commit to this event, and we do not understand why,” said Ms. Picard, whose husband is deployed in Iraq. “We made it very clear to them that if they would commit to the event, we would work with them on dates.”

Many people at Fort Hood are angry that the press release went out. This is definitely understandable in the current political climate. “This was a decision that was made with tremendous difficulty, to publicize it,” Ms. Picard said. “We were at a point where we had no other option.” While I do not feel comfortable with how this was handled, I understand Ms. Picard’s motives.

After reading the press release and the New York Times article, and because I know Ms. Picard personally, I know that she has a strong passion for the soldiers and the military families; it is this charge that drives her.  Ms. Picard knows that the war is at the forefront for those in the military, and so she took the initiative to pull an event together where the presidential candidates could discuss their Iraq, Afghanistan, and foreign policy strategies. 

As a military spouse of a wounded OIF veteran, I know that many military soldiers, spouses, and families would like to see the candidates discuss how they are going to handle Iraq and Afghanistan, and perhaps Iran, once they become president. This is important to us particularly in light of the multiple mobilizations of our soldiers, the continued fight for veteran benefits, and the stress that the exhaustive tours have on our families and marriages. Make no mistake, it is a mess over there, and we need to come together to figure out the best way to handle the Iraq situation.  Many of the residents of Fort Hood (and I am sure residents of other military installations) are tired of the war and want some answers. And while I do not believe it is necessary for McCain and Obama to participate in ten town hall forums as suggested by Senator McCain, I think one or two debates would prove useful to the American people.

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