Veterans advocacy group makes stop in Fayetteville
The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.
A veterans advocacy group made a stop in Fayetteville on Tuesday to raise awareness of issues ahead of the November election.
The group, Concerned Veterans for America, attracted about 75 people to The Pilgrim's Journey Book Store in the Eutaw Shopping Center.
Over a pancake breakfast, the group members explained some of the issues facing veterans this election cycle, including voting problems, benefits backlogs and unemployment. They also took questions from the audience.
Pete Hegseth, the group's CEO and a captain in the Minnesota National Guard, said he didn't want to pressure anyone to vote for any particular candidate.
Instead, he was there for veterans, he said, hoping to capitalize on the election season to increase awareness of the group's issues.
"We can do better on all of these issues and we need to," he said. "Veterans should be a bipartisan issue."
Hegseth also preached fiscal responsibility.
He pressed for a reduction of the national debt, saying that a stronger economy would lead to a stronger military.
In addition to Hegseth, retired Lt. Col. Steve Russell, author of the book "We Got Him!: The Hunt for Saddam," and Jane Horton, the widow of Spc. Christopher Horton, spoke at the rally.
Russell, who commanded a task force in Iraq that played a role in the capture of Saddam Hussein, said it was unacceptable to not address the group's concerns.
Veteran unemployment is higher than the national average, he said, and the backlog of veterans benefits has nearly doubled over the past few years.
"Our nation stands at a crucial time," he said. "Veteran or supporter of veterans, you must get out and vote."
Her husband, a member of the Oklahoma National Guard, was killed in Afghanistan last September.
Since then, Horton said she's dedicated herself to lobbying for the troops and their families, pressing forward with the belief that the sacrifices of her husband and soldiers everywhere deserve better.
"I'm passionate about a lot of the problems," she said. "They sicken me and pull at my heartstrings."
The trio, along with a group of other veterans, is traveling along the East Coast to raise awareness.
They are traveling in a small bus decorated with images of soldiers and the name of their trek, the "We Can Do Better Tour 2012."
From North Carolina, the tour will head into South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, Hegseth said.