Columns » Ranger Rich

Vets jumping the Republican ship


Veterans for Obama, from left: Joe Carlson, Lowell Pierce and Stan Garment.
  • Veterans for Obama, from left: Joe Carlson, Lowell Pierce and Stan Garment.

This is as much of a shock as the National Enquirer telling us not to believe everything you read. Sarah Palin recruiting for Harvard. O.J. Simpson championing the truth, and El Paso County District Attorney John Newsome telling us not to drink and drive.

Lowell Pierce, Joe Carlson and Stan Garment are campaigning for Barack Obama.

Pierce is 66. He spent 24 years in the Air Force and, until recently, he hadn't met a single conservative policy he didn't like. But in 2004, when George W. Bush was seeking re-election, Pierce saw the light. (Here you can make your own Bush joke, although the punch line should definitely involve the words "dim bulb.")

Pierce voted against George W. the first time he'd strayed from his lifelong devotion to the Republican Party.

Carlson, 61, is an Army vet and an infantry captain who fought in Vietnam. November will mark the first time he's voted for a Democrat.

And Garment? Well, he flew B-52 bombers in Vietnam then went to seminary and became a Navy chaplain. John McCain's Navy. That, you'd think, would make Garment, 60, and the Republican presidential nominee brothers of a sort.

You'd think wrong. A few weeks ago, Garment, a devoted Republican for 39 years, marched down to Centennial Hall and officially changed his party affiliation to Democrat.

The three men, longtime poster boys for the GOP, have had enough of Bush, a sneering Dick Cheney and Cheney's proposed replacement "Wal-Mart mom" Palin and her $400 designer eyeglasses.

Oh, and now, finally, they've had enough of McCain, too.

These days, Pierce, Carlson and Garment go to Obama rally meetings. They met at one on Sept. 9 and found they had identical, bad feelings in their stomachs about the state of our nation. Now they all have Obama bumper stickers and they have registered new voters and they walk their neighborhoods in the rolling scrub-oak hills of Monument just north of Colorado Springs.

(Followers of the deep and brainy philosophy known as Palinism would say the three men must surely know a lot about the military they can see the Air Force Academy from their backyard decks.)

While using great care not to trip over all the McCain-Palin lawn signs in their neck of the woods, they knock on doors now in that most Republican of places, and they ask voters people a lot like themselves to consider jumping ship with them.

"I've come out," says a smiling Carlson. "I've been holding my tongue way too long. The Republican Party leaders have betrayed us. I just can't remain silent anymore."

The three men collaborated on a letter a few days ago, a letter they sent to the local media that outlined their background and their views.

"We are life-long Republicans and Vietnam-era veterans who love our country," the letter began. "The leaders of the Republican Party we have supported all of our voting lives have betrayed our trust and have gone to a place we can no longer follow."

The letter attacks Bush's untruthful journey into the Iraq war. Then it revisits the dark legacy of Vietnam, saying: "This fraud perpetrated upon our nation has cost us dearly. Another generation of our troops killed, wounded, emotionally scarred and inadequately cared for upon their return from combat." (See the full letter as a Web Extra at

The men see little hope of change with a Republican victory in November. Carlson, the Vietnam infantry soldier, says that listening to McCain these days reminds him of the lyrics from the Bruce Springsteen song, "Glory Days."

"It's the whole 'boring stories of glory days' thing," he says. "John McCain lives in the past."

Carlson attended an Obama rally in Pueblo on Sept. 15. It lit a fire.

"It was overwhelming," he says. "It was the diversity of the crowd that got me. White and black and Hispanic, tall and short, fat and skinny, men and women, old and young, bald guys and guys with plenty of hair. No red states and blue states. Just Americans."

Garment, the retired Navy chaplain, says he's doing things he has never done before.

"I have a campaign sign on my lawn and a bumper sticker on my car," he says. "The lawn sign is on a cul-de-sac. Hardly anyone sees it. But I see it. And I like it. It feels like the right thing. It makes me smile."

Pierce, the retired Air Force vet, watches as a granddaughter scampers through the den of his home. He speaks again, quietly, of the war and of America's crumbling economy

"I look at her, at all of my grandchildren, and I know we have to make some big changes," he says. "I know we have to leave them something better than this."

Republicans for Obama

(Following is a letter from three military retirees who are residents of Monument in northern El Paso County, explaining why they're supporting Sen. Barack Obama for president.)

We the undersigned are life-long Republicans and Vietnam era veterans who love our country. The leaders of the Republican Party we have supported all of our voting lives have betrayed our trust and the trust of our fellow citizens who elected them to office and has gone to a place we can no longer follow. They have, by their actions, denigrated the very Constitution we swore to "support and defend." They have done this by fraudulently misrepresenting intelligence data in a manner calculated to gain support of an invasion of a nation that had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001 attacks. The fraud perpetrated upon our nation has cost us dearly, not only in terms of our economy and world standing, but more importantly in terms of another generation of our troops killed, wounded, emotionally scarred and inadequately cared for upon their return from combat.

We remember that this also happened to our contemporaries when they returned from Southeast Asia. We therefore fervently hoped that this invasion of Iraq in the 21st century would not go forward; that persons of influence in our own Party would have the courage to stand up and say "ENOUGH." Sadly, that did not happen. In fact, Sen. John McCain on January 2, 2002, aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt yelled to a crowd of sailors, "Next up, Baghdad."

We had great admiration for John McCain; however, watching Sen. McCain over the past two years, as he has positioned himself to win the party's nomination, he has moved so far to the right that he stands on a platform that is the most radically conservative that the Republican Party has ever crafted. We see that Sen. McCain: (1) continues to believe that the use of military force is the primary tool for dealing with the rest of the world; (2) follows the policies of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney; and (3) if elected will apply the same foreign relation and economic tools that have failed us miserably over the past eight years.

So the three of us turn to Barack Obama someone we genuinely feel has the thoughtful courage to bring our country back into the world community with dignity and responsibility. The running mate Sen. Obama has chosen, Sen. Joe Biden, is totally qualified to carry on Obama's and the country's work should that be necessary. McCain's running mate could not perform the job.

We believe that Obama: (1) will end a war that is draining the strength of our military and robbing our country of the treasure so vitally needed in other areas; (2) will pursue all the tools of diplomacy to contain and defeat terrorism starting with rekindling the partnerships with our allies who have been shunned by President Bush and Dick Cheney; (3) understands that leaving our troops in Muslim lands over many years (as we did in Europe) exacerbates the tensions between cultures and creates a breeding ground for more terrorists to grow, thereby increasing the danger to our country; (4) will work on the energy problem in a way that creates real jobs for Americans that will stay in our country; (5) has a plan for energizing our youth to volunteer to help our country in return for affordable education; (6) will restore a balance among business, investors and American workers that has slipped badly out of balance and will hold big business accountable and ensure fair pay for all workers a balance that will help the economy rebound; and (7) will find a center path that will ensure all women have the right of choice.

The three of us ask you to carefully consider your choice for president this year and trust yourself about what you see as the world's future following the possible presidential elections outcomes. Do not let yourself be swayed by ads that are outright lies, misleading, slogans of little meaning and pundits who are trying to convince you how to vote. The three of us have ceased voting for ourselves; we now vote for our children and grand children and the world we will leave them. Look at how the past eight years have affected you and your family. We are not safer, we are economically far worse off, reasonable cost healthcare is out of reach for most, and the view for affordability of quality education for our children is grim. We three Republicans ask that you look at your own world and trust what you see and then make the choice knowing that real change can only occur if we all support Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden.

Based on what we have outlined above, we have found a champion of our Constitution on the other side of the political aisle that is saying "ENOUGH!" Loyalty to our country trumps any party sentiment we may have previously held. Consequently, we embrace the candidacy of, and earnestly endorse Sen. Barack Obama for the presidency of our United States of America.


Joe Carlson (Former U.S. Army Captain, Infantry), Stan Garment (LCDR , U.S. Navy, Retired) and Lowell Pierce (Colonel, USAF, Retired)

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