Pence: Trump is a 'champion,' 'ally' to veterans
By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 30, 2018
MINNEAPOLIS — Speaking to hundreds of American Legion members on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence lauded President Donald Trump as a champion to veterans and listed off a series of what he described as major achievements under his administration.
Pence spoke to several hundred Legion members on the last day of the organization’s national convention in Minneapolis – an event that marked the Legion’s 100th year. During a 25-minute speech, Pence lauded Trump’s work for veterans, his “America First” national security strategy and efforts to increase military spending.
“In case you haven’t noticed, you have an ally and champion in President Donald Trump,” Pence said. “Just as you fought for our freedom, we will always fight for you.”
In June, Trump signed the $55 billion VA Mission Act, which aims to expand veterans’ access to private-sector health care. Pence described it Thursday as one of the “largest and most important VA reforms in a generation” and said the administration was living up to the promise to give veterans freedom and choice in their health care.
However, the Mission Act remains unfunded because of a $1.7 billion funding shortfall. Congress is likely to tackle the issue when it returns from summer break.
Pence’s remarks to the Legion came just days after the organization clashed with the White House over protocols for honoring Sen. John McCain, who died Saturday from brain cancer. After pressure from the Legion and other veterans organizations that criticized the White House for raising its flag to full-staff, Trump issued a proclamation and ordered flags lowered to half-staff through McCain’s interment.
“Senator John McCain was an American hero and cherished member of the American Legion,” the organization wrote to Trump on Monday. “I strongly urge you to make an appropriate presidential proclamation noting Senator McCain’s death and legacy of service to our nation.”
Throughout the three-day convention, speakers at the Legion convention spoke about McCain’s military service and his work in Congress for veterans and the military. The convention started Tuesday with a moment of silence for him.
About the time Pence took the stage Thursday, McCain’s memorial service started in Phoenix.
Pence spoke briefly about him, describing him as “one of the most unwavering advocates of our Armed Forces.”
“There’s a particular veteran on the hearts and minds of people all across America as we gather here,” Pence said. “He came from a long line of service in uniform, served in the Vietnam War, spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war and did not yield. After he made it home, he took on a new kind of service in the halls of our nation’s capital.
“I can assure you, America will always remember and honor the lifetime of service of United States Senator John McCain.”