'They will hear from us'
Cloudy skies with the threat of rain didn't deter approximately 150 veterans and their families who assembled early Sunday morning to show their solidarity during the federal government shutdown.
Carrying American flags, the participants congregated at the North Carolina Veterans Memorial in Broadway to support the Million Vets March on the Memorials. The local rally was part of a nationwide protest by veterans to oppose to the federal government's handling of military and veterans' affairs during this partial government shutdown.
Event organizer William Vaughan, who served in Desert Storm, said that the purpose of the protest was to send a clear and concise message to Washington, D.C., that denying veterans access to their own war memorials, many of which are open air, unguarded and accessible 24 hours a day, by physically blocking them is unacceptable. The participants also rallied against federally approved and mandated benefits being denied to active-duty military and veterans and their survivors, as well as military members being denied access to their religious chaplains.
“When you tell me that the men who stormed the beach at Normandy can't go see their memorial, something is wrong,” said N.C. state Senator Ronald Rabin, a retired U.S. Army colonel who served in the Pentagon. “I can't conceive of how a government that cares about its people can do what it has done to its veterans. I am old enough to remember what kind of country this was during World War II. I was one of the kids that went around picking up scrap metal because we all did what we could to support the troops.”
Rabin said the federal government shutdown reminded him of the television program “The Dome” because “there is no communication in or out of Washington."
"They have no idea what we want or need; we are saying enough is enough," Rabin continued. "We can't keep making promises we break. Someone told me when I went into the service that we would get free medical care for the rest of my life; not pay for this, pay for that. We have got to take control again. We are the ones doing the protection."
The state senator said the situation brought to mind a famous movie quote.
"‘I am mad as hell, and I am not taking this anymore,'" Rabin said. "We need to remember the words of Ronald Reagan, [who] said, ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.’"
On his way to the event from Kernersville, Vaughan said he drove by the Nathaniel Greene memorial in Greensboro to find it chained and locked. Inside the park is a memorial to a Revolutionary War hero, he said, "and we can't go in there."
"If the government doesn't want to maintain the statues and keep the memorial open, we will," Vaughan said. "The clock is ticking. If Washington, D.C., doesn't open the memorials that are ours, if we aren't given access to clergy, they will hear from us. This nation needs their veterans to come forward.”
As Rabin and Vaughan spoke, their audience waved flags, clapped and cheered, and veterans who had served in the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq rallied to their words.
Carrying a large American flag and wearing an Airborne T-shirt, Johnny Michael Veit Jr., who was stationed at Fort Bragg for six years, said, “ I'm disgusted. I don't understand how our president made this move to deny benefits while he gets his paycheck. This is the least I can do to show love for my country.”