Image Letters from Veterans

Last Minute Letters from Veterans About Election Day 2016

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Lima Charlie News received a flurry of OpEd submissions from U.S. military veterans seeking to have their voices heard before Election Day, eager to weigh in on Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton one last time. We decided to include 5 of them here for consideration. We here at LCN hope you turn out & vote your conscience for #Election 2016.

Donald Trump Does Not Want My Vote

by Mario Figueroa (U.S. Marine Corps veteran)

Donald Trump does not want my vote. How do I know? He has told me more times than I can count.

I am a combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps. I fought in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since my honorable discharge in 2005, I have served veterans in numerous capacities from working for the VA and veteran non-profits to advocating for veteran rights in government. Donald Trump does not want my vote.

  • He’s not a war hero; He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured
  • Man, that’s like big stuff. I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier
  • Whatever happened to the element of surprise, right? What a group of losers we have. They should have kept their mouths shut

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I am Mexican. The son of a Mexican immigrant. I was raised by a working class Midwestern family. I went on to serve my country, and graduate from an Ivy League school. Donald Trump does not want my vote:

  • They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people
  • The crime that’s been committed by these people is unbelievable
  • I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me –and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words

I am a feminist. Women reserve the right to control their own bodies. I believe in gender equality. Consent is sexy. Donald Trump does not want my vote:

  • Just grab them by the pussy!
  • I’ll appoint Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade abortion case
  • Putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing

I am a journalist. Donald Trump does not want my vote:

  • I would never kill them, but I do hate them. And some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It’s true

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As a proud Mexican, veteran, journalist, feminist, and as a proud American, I can say without any trepidation that I will be voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton for President of these United States of America tomorrow. Why? She is one of the most qualified candidates this country has ever seen. But, also, because Donald Trump doesn’t want my vote. How do I know? He has told me more times than I can count.

| Mario Figueroa is a former Marine Corps Infantryman who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Following his service, Mario completed his B.A. in English Literature at Columbia University in the City of New York. While completing his studies, Mario served on the Executive Board of The US Military Veterans of Columbia University while also working as Director of Veteran Services for United War Veterans Council, a veterans centric non-profit dedicated to honoring service and helping veterans transition back into the civilian world. When he is not trying to save the world Mario likes to read comics and obsess over his two Yorkies, Jimi Hendrix and Jordy Nelson. Follow Mario on Twitter @MFigueroaLC 


All Loud on the Social Media Front

By David Polsdorfer (US Navy veteran)

I’ve been on a sixteen-month deployment fighting for your freedom, America. It’s the war on social media. It’s this damned election.

As a veteran of this war and the war in Afghanistan, I am writing to issue a warning. This is not a fight we want to continue. It is dangerous to our democracy and to our sanity.

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For the past year I’ve been stationed in the field of public debate, trying to convince Americans that one candidate is the obvious choice and the other is a misogynistic, fascistic, orange toad (I won’t specify who is who so that I don’t offend anyone). I used the tools of debate–eloquence, vocabulary, and the rules of Aristotle’s rhetoric–to dispel the fog of irrational equivalency. I have fired my keyboard like an artillery gun to breach the barricade of willful ignorance.

There is no end to the ammunition I have in store, but it seems the war rages on despite the statistics. It even threatens to continue past November 8th.

Trust me, I understand why you fight. When I enlisted, I did so with complete confidence. I accepted that my side had flaws, but the competition was in a different league. The policies were inane, there were links to the mafia and to Putin, and there were clear fascistic themes. I assumed that I was making the only logical, ethical choice.

I assumed that others would agree. But when I informed my friends of my decision, I encountered immediate resistance. I was called a “wannabe political scientist,” and a shill for the establishment. I was suddenly alienated for doing what I thought was rational.

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I experienced the same bafflement that the majority of Americans are experiencing right now. I could not imagine how anyone could equate these two candidates. It seemed ridiculous that well-educated or experienced persons could endorse the other. But they did. And they do.

I figured, like many of you do, that my friends simply lacked the right information. So, I became the voice of my candidate on my timeline. I posted articles, replied to statuses, attacked memes, and commented on the shared videos of their friends of friends. I brought up politics out of context and questioned the logic of my friends hoping that reason would prevail.

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But no matter the facts, or the stories, the scandals, or the figures thrown over the barricade, they persisted. The more I attacked, the more entrenched they became.

Think back to the beginning of this election. We all began it confidently. We believed it was impossible for one candidate or the other to become a real political threat. Then two entrenched powers with millions of dollars in resources launched bold offensives into new territory, and were surprised when they ended abruptly along conventional lines. Twitter changed and ravaged the political landscape like artillery fire. And like WWI, entrenched leadership made mistake after mistake.

We have lost friends, family members, and loved ones to this election. We have lost our sense of unity.

IMAGE The 282 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List

I’m writing now, here in the pits of this election, to say what I learned over the course of my deployment. What’s at stake in this fight is not the election. It is a dogged persistence to be right, or at least self-righteous.

I did not want reasoned debate. I wanted you to submit. I wanted to take you by the hand, walk with me into the light of wisdom, and then look back at me and say “I was wrong. You are right, and are much smarter than me.” I wanted you to think freely to vote for the candidate of my choice.

It’s not that the fight was wrong, because we should fight for our beliefs, but the ends do not justify the means. The methods I have used have terrible costs. We have reached a point where no voice can be trusted anymore. There are no conscientious objectors or voices of reason. In this race to the sea, everyone has taken a stand. We are all wearing uniforms or red hats.

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The deception of online debate is that it makes you believe you can win. But the problem is that no one wins a debate. The purpose of debate is to illuminate a perspective. As articulated by the movie Thank you for Smoking, the best a debater can do is win over the audience.

But social media is not the place for political debate. Our timelines and our twitter feeds provide public record of our opinions. We cannot change them for fear of contradicting our past selves.

And the risk of online debate is great. We threaten to divide ourselves by our opinions and ideologies. It threatens the safe space for discourse that social media can create. If we select our friends and connections by the political positions we hold, and if we disrespect the votes of other citizens, we threaten the foundation of this country, the power to agree to disagree.

Image Trump Tweet

We should recognize that the fabric of this country is not built on political leadership. It is built on trust in the decisions made by the electorate. After all, the results of this election are not the fault of one or two people. It is representative of the current state of American politics.

I’m apologizing now because it is time to get out of the trenches. This war has to end. We have to remember that there is a November 9th, and on that day we will have to look across the computer screen at the friends and family members that we have lost.

I want to make November 9th a day of peaceful accord between all parties. Trump, Clinton, and Johnson supporters are invited. Even the Stein voters can come. Together, we can celebrate an armistice day, when we can reach out across the ideological divide, and remind ourselves why we accepted each other’s friend requests. I want November 9th to be a day when we, as a social media community, set aside our politics and discuss something else. Cute puppy videos, superhero movies, and Bill Nye’s new TV show.

This November 9th join me to make Facebook civil again. #Nov9th

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David Polsdorfer served in the United States Navy from 2008 until 2013 as a Cryptologic Technician Collector. He worked in the intelligence community at NIOC Hawaii and completed one tour to Afghanistan in 2011 as an LLVI operator. In 2014 he was selected to be part of The Daily Show’s Veteran Immersion Program and continued there as an intern in the fall. In 2015, he worked as a production assistant with Sara Taksler and Sarkasmos Productions, LLC on the documentary film, Tickling Giants. He recently received his Bachelor’s from Columbia University in Political Science. He writes and edits. Follow David on Twitter @DPolsdorferLC 


This Veterans Day Will Be Different

by Graciela Tiscareño-Sato (USAF veteran)

I’m a military veteran and die-hard Hillary Clinton supporter – just ask anyone connected to me on Facebook and Twitter. I’m also a member of Common Defense (“veterans fighting to defeat Donald Trump in 2016.”)

I’ve been thinking about how this Veterans Day is going to be different. I was blessed last week to be added to the secret Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation, an uber-positive space of Hillary supporters “pantsuiters” who consciously have chosen to turn our backs on the negativity of this never-ending election cycle to share stories of WHY we are supporting Hillary. What I have gained in five days of participation in the group of over 1.5 million happy people is the most affirming and joyful insight into the lives of Hillary’s supporters, collectively: all genders, communities, states and yes, all political affiliations. I’ve seen our collective humanity that networks forgot to broadcast; many in the media forgot that elections are actually about We the People.

Pantsuit Nation is filling that humanity gap and restoring our faith in each other. We’re uplifting the HRC supporter who living in a deeply red community who’s endured personal insults and yard sign vandalism for months.

We’re healing the voter whose adopted Latino son was told by a classmate that he couldn’t wait for him to be deported after the election.

We’re consoling the voter who’s 96 year-old grandmother cast her vote from her hospital bed then passed away 8 hours later.

We’re meeting the young couple who described themselves as “two Muslims who have lived here for 15 years and became citizens last year to vote in this election.”

We’re meeting gay couples who have adopted children and are thrilled to be able to marry and raise a family. We are celebrating with women voting with their daughters and their sons, as I did last Friday.

And, we’re hearing from my fellow veterans, men and women of all ages, expressing their support for Hillary Clinton, THRILLED that this Veterans Day we will celebrate having elected our first woman to serve as the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, an awesome responsibility for which she’s eminently qualified. Yes, we will call her Madam President, but rest assured those of us who have worn the uniform who support Hillary know that this is her most critically important role.

And Pantsuit Nation is doing this all in SECRET so people feel free to share a video of themselves crying with joy in a car after having voted for their candidate, Next President Hillary Clinton.

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THIS Veterans Day will be different for veterans who have watched the rapid progress of women in uniform, from my first three years on active duty when women were denied roles in combat aviation to flying EVERY aircraft to commanding entire squadrons of combat and support aircrews and leadership in all our armed forces. We’ve come so far so fast.

This Veterans Day will be a celebration of the greatest glass ceiling being broken and a signal to women to work to break more glass ceilings everywhere. This Veterans Day we will celebrate that there truly are NO limits to what women can achieve. Hillary is demonstrating this to be true even when an army of men including politicians of the opposing party, the head of the FBI, the Wiki leakers and even Vladimir Putin all desperately want to stop a competent woman’s rise to the top, where she’ll wield tremendous political and social power…. GLOBALLY.

Hillary Clinton, lifetime servant leader and status quo disruptor, prevails anyway, because that’s what tenacious women do, especially when on behalf of so many others.

So yes, this Veterans Day is going to be different. I will spend some part of the day crying happy tears that this day finally arrived. I’ll be riding roller coasters with my children, screaming louder than ever, celebrating being a veteran and the election of our first Commander-in-Chief born a woman. It’s a glorious time to be alive!

Image Graciela Tiscareno
Graciela Tiscareño-Sato (USAF veteran)

Graciela Tiscareño-Sato served in the U.S. Air Force for over 9 years, as aircrew member and instructor navigator onboard KC-135 refueling tankers. She’s a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley where she attended as an Air Force ROTC scholarship cadet. During her active duty military career she earned an Air Medal for combat air ops over Baghdad in 1992 (before women were officially allowed to serve in combat air ops). Employing her language skills, she served on the NATO Battlestaff in Italy during the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina and completed her master degree in International Management while serving as liaison officer at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador. She’s the award-winning author of the bilingual Captain Mama children’s book series inspired by her military career, a keynote speaker and facilitator of Personal Branding for Military Veterans workshops across the country. She was honored by The White House as a Champion of Change, Woman Veteran Leader in 2014. Follow her on Twitter @GraceTiscareno


An Intel Analyst’s perspective on the Clinton emails

By David Polsdorfer (US Navy veteran)

This weekend, the FBI announced that the renewed investigation into Hillary Clinton emails revealed nothing. She is innocent, again. As someone who had a security clearance from 2009 until 2013, I am relieved. This supposed scandal has persisted long enough.

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From 2009 until 2013 while I served in the US Navy as a CTR, I was responsible for maintaining a Top Secret/Secret Compartmented Information clearance. I handled classified material on a daily basis.

Operational security was a part of my everyday life. When I came to work, I was not allowed to bring personal devices inside the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. Unsecured devices, such as cell phones, iPods, pagers, and later smart phones, were not permitted and were left at home or in the car. I had two separate email addresses. One on the secure network, and another on the unsecured network. They were inaccessible to one another. The reason is that information from the secure network could leak into the world wide web, either by accident or server attack.

This environment was unique during a time when the iPhone first launched. I remained insulated as the world became more interconnected. When I transitioned from this environment to the real world, I suffered a bit of shock. But I’ve adapted and am as dependent on my smartphone now as anyone else.

It’s a helpful transition. A single device is convenient. I am always able to reach people by phone, email, or messenger application. I can always look up directions for where I need to go.

Obviously, Secretary Clinton was not googling, “American embassy” at any point during her four-year tenure as Secretary of State. She had a plane and a driver to help her visit those 112 countries. When she was on her Blackberry, it was because she was receiving information pertinent to her responsibility as Secretary.

When she was appointed to be Secretary of State, she was given a similar briefing as I was about secure networks. She was told, like I was, that secure and personal devices needed to remain separate. She was given the opportunity to create a State.gov address to receive work emails, separate from her personal one.

However, she had a problem with this. Whatever the specific problem was at the time, she opted “for convenience.” She requested that everything be sent to one private email on her private server, Clintonemail.com.

But this is important. The State Department and its employees accommodated her. They continued to send emails to her private address on her private server for four years. There were some murmured complaints about protocol in the State Department, but no thought of criminal prosecution. In fact, she is generally liked at the State Department.

But according to Republicans, this was criminal. She shouldn’t have used a private email. She shouldn’t have used a private server. She should have done what everybody else does in government.

As one of the “everybody else,” I might have a reason to agree with them. Had I brought a personal device into work, or had emails even closely related to work found on my smartphone, I would be typing this from prison. For the sake of justice, she shouldn’t be treated differently.

But I have a problem. This doesn’t sound like criminal activity to me. It sounds like laziness. Not the kind of laziness that is problematic. The kind of laziness created by having access to the internet every hour of the day. The kind of laziness I constantly saw in government. There’s a reason public servants tell the joke, “good enough for government work.”

Honestly, I understand her decision to use her personal device. Government equipment sucks. A government computer will slow down any task by hours. If I was given the choice between paying for a new smartphone from AT&T or being given a free computer by the government, I would choose AT&T every time.

But even comparing myself to her is unfair. My job was different. I had the privilege of being able to separate my life at work from home. As Secretary of State, she did not. That responsibility for the lives of hundreds of embassy workers and Americans overseas rested on her shoulders constantly. She needed a constant feed of information. If I wanted that information accessible at all hours, I would also opt for convenience. One device for all of my information needs. It makes even more sense for a sixty-one year old woman who has trouble with email.

Most importantly, both Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell opted for the same convenience. They used private email addresses. We’ve heard that using a private server is different than using a private email because of its vulnerability. However, in the realm of secure networks, that argument is unsound. A device is secure if it is separated from unclassified networks, and private email addresses are not because they rely on the protections provided by private companies.

I find it laughable that Republicans campaign for Hillary’s imprisonment for this minor crime because they are undoubtedly guilty of the same laziness. My mind returns to two years ago when Kevin McCarthy said on live television that the Benghazi hearings were a strategy of the Republican controlled Congress to make Secretary Clinton appear untrustworthy. It reeks of political opportunism.

I might be convinced that Clinton should be held responsible if Rice and Powell were charged for the same crime. But that’s not what Republicans are asking. They’re saying that we cannot elect someone to the Oval Office who did this crime, completely ignoring the fact that the “crime” was a convenient solution that had become common practice in the department.

Republicans are taking advantage of a gap in understanding between government workers and civilians. People expect government to work like a well-oiled machine, when in reality it is filled with people who are not paid enough for too much work and constantly having to work around protocol in order to get real work done. Remember, this is the same government that let Edward Snowden walk out of a top secret facility with a USB stick of compromising data and flee the country.

I’ll admit that there are shades of elitism. The top officials in government are clearly able to cut corners that I could not. But the difference is in degree. I was never given the choice. I and everybody in my office would have cut those same corners if given the option.

Remember that Comey defined her activity as “negligent,” not criminal. This is ironic coming from a man who neglected to take into account the impact his letter to Republicans would have on the election.

What Republicans are making people forget is that government is full of human beings that are sometimes neglectful. This includes our leadership. And while the fight against elitism is legitimate, they are not calling for justice for all. They want justice for their benefit. And when justice is not delivered equally, it is not delivered. It becomes politics.

For that reason, I’m relieved about yesterday’s announcement. There is much more at stake this election.

David Polsdorfer served in the United States Navy from 2008 until 2013 as a Cryptologic Technician Collector. He worked in the intelligence community at NIOC Hawaii and completed one tour to Afghanistan in 2011 as an LLVI operator. In 2014 he was selected to be part of The Daily Show’s Veteran Immersion Program and continued there as an intern in the fall. In 2015, he worked as a production assistant with Sara Taksler and Sarkasmos Productions, LLC on the documentary film, Tickling Giants. He recently received his Bachelor’s from Columbia University in Political Science. He writes and edits. Follow David on Twitter @DPolsdorferLC 


Strength in Diversity

by Won Palisoul (US Navy veteran)

I was 16 years of age when I convinced my parents to sign the paperwork for me to join the U.S. Navy Delayed Entry Program.  After scoring well on the ASVAB (the military’s aptitude test), I was intrigued by the opportunities the Navy offered: paying for college with GI Bill benefits, and allowing me to give back to a country that had granted my family so much freedom.  At 17, I graduated from high school and left for Navy Basic Training in August of 2001. Three weeks into my training, 9/11 happened.

This strengthened my resolve to serve our nation and to defend the quintessentially American values under attack.  I was forward deployed in the Pacific, aboard a Spruance-class Destroyer stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.  Additionally, I served in a reserve unit attached to Commander, Destroyer Squadron 40 in Pensacola, FL, USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) and the Navy Operational Support Center in Jacksonville, FL to conclude my 8 years of military service.

Everything I’ve seen and came to believe throughout that time makes one thing abundantly clear to me: Donald Trump does not stand for my values and he is unfit to be our Commander in Chief.

I feel this way in part because of my family. My grandfather and uncle fled to Cuba from China after the communist takeover; several decades later, they escaped again following Fidel Castro’s ascension to power in their place of refuge. With nothing more than the clothes on their backs, they came to the United States in the late 70s as Cuban refugees. They later joined the Cuban Chinese Benevolent Association in Chinatown, a social club. Like many of the club members, my uncle started a restaurant, raised a family, and lived the American Dream. His children and grandchildren continue to live productive lives as police officers, medical professionals, and civil servants.

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My parents and I joined them in 1991 when we emigrated from China to New York City. They wanted a brighter future for me. The Chinese characters for “America” is literally “Beautiful Country“, symbolic of how many Asian countries view America. My parents wanted me to have not only educational opportunities, but also the freedoms that come with being an American.  I was the first in my family to earn a college degree and a graduate degree. These core values of freedom, including respect for others and working hard, are central to many immigrant families as well as to what makes the United States a powerful and great nation. Secretary Clinton shares our values and stands with the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

While serving in the Navy, I expanded my family and my connection to the veterans community when I married my husband, who was also an active-duty servicemember with a long family tradition of military service that dates back several generations. I know the sacrifices of veterans and military family members first-hand. As dual-military parents, my husband and I had to sign paperwork providing parental rights to a family member should we were both be called away from home at the same time. When you are committing your life to the nation, and putting your children into someone else’s care, you need to trust the Commander.

That’s why I know we need a thoughtful, measured leader who values the sacrifice made by servicemembers and their families. In addition to embracing the diversity of families like mine and recognizing that America is stronger for it, Secretary Clinton will take the role of Commander in Chief seriously. She knows military veterans deserve high quality care, for both medical and psychological wounds. She fought to expand care for veterans with PTSD by introducing the Heroes at Home Act of 2006.

Donald Trump, by contrast, wants us to abandon years of American values and tradition. In this campaign alone, he has joked about Purple Heart Medals, disrespected Gold Star parents, and mocked Prisoners of War. And as for diversity, he rejects refugees and uses fear mongering to keep the tired, the poor and the huddled masses of Syrian women and children yearning to breathe free away from our country. Trump has no understanding of values like service and duty that are so integral to military service and America; he received five draft deferments during Vietnam, two due to a foot condition he doesn’t appear to remember.

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By standing with military families, Secretary Clinton illustrates what many leaders in Washington overlook; our military is comprised of individuals who are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children. Their families provide them with the support they need in order to fulfill the military missions of the United States. By supporting a more flexible and diverse force, expanding child care options, and helping military spouses to work and go to school, we are creating a stronger military. Secretary Clinton knows that the military cannot be made strong just by purchasing more advanced weapons systems. It is strong when it leverages and nurtures the incredible talent of the fighting force, including men and women, immigrants and native born Americans, and Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists and other religions.

That’s the kind of Commander in Chief that I want to serve—and she’s the kind of Commander in Chief that our military and their families deserve.

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Won Palisoul is an 8-year Navy veteran. She was forward deployed in the Pacific for OEF. She is a Defense Council member with Truman National Security Project and serves on the TruDiversity council. Won is the NY State Coordinator for the DNC Veterans and Military Families Council.

Please read some of our other Election 2016 OpEds:

Image GailForce American Woman: Where Double Standards Shape an Election

Image On Trump Supporters: Who in Washington Cares About Us?

Image How Progressives Took Over US Foreign Policy: The Truman National Security Project


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