A small but growing group of Ken­tucky veterans is tired of the GOP choke hold on patriotism, and tired of hearing that Democrats hate America.

This divide didn’t start in the 1960s, but it began to grow as the Vietnam War tore apart the country. Folks who demonstrated against the war were branded as communist sympathizers and disloyal Americans, unlike the “silent majority” as supporters of the war often were called.

During the Reagan administration, massive defense budgets funded new equipment projects such as the M1 tank, a near 600-ship U.S. Navy and new bombers which helped rejuvenate the Department of Defense that had been depleted by the Vietnam War. Republicans made sure we knew who buttered that bread.

The distortion that seems so common today got its bearing in 2004, when the Democratic presidential candidate was “swift-boated” by Republican operatives who twisted the war record of Sen. John Kerry.

While serving on active duty, many service men and women register as independent. Staying true to the oath to “support and defend the Constitution … and to obey the orders of the President and the officers appointed over me,” seems to be an easy path to stay apolitical. Indeed, there are a number of active-duty service men and women who simply don’t vote, as either a badge of honor of their apolitical independence or simply to keep the slate clean of any political conflict.

When we come home, re-enter our communities and reunite with our families, veterans sometimes are seen among their families and neighbors as authorities – or at least well-informed – on matters of national defense and security.

I was an independent throughout my 24-year U.S. Army career, voting for candidates on both sides of the ballot over the years, but I joined the Democratic Party in 2017.

Whether we served on a tank crew, on a flight line, aboard a ship at sea or in the halls of the Pentagon, veterans of the armed forces are committed to selfless service, duty, loyalty, respect, honor, integrity and personal courage – qualities that are in short supply in our Statehouse and White House.

In June, the Kentucky Democratic Veterans Council was formed to serve as a political voice for local veterans to continue to serve and make a difference in our local community, our state and our nation.

We’re not a “thank me for my service” organization – rather, we intend to organize, rally, recruit, and vote for candidates who are true to our country and its ideals.

We know:

n the value of equal pay for equal work;

n how important health care is to us and our families;

n that adequate housing and transportation make a difference in lives;

n that good schools and care for our children give us a sense of joy and well-being;

n that reliable infrastructure is critical to our daily lives; and

n the valuable contribution of immigrants to our country.

So, then, it’s not a stretch for us to see that the Democratic Party embraces our experience. And in the current political environment, the Republican Party lags.

It’s important to note that the Kentucky Democratic Veterans Council is not a new-age anti-war group – nor one that advocates war as a default solution.

Rather, we believe the principles of the Weinberger Doctrine, a policy named for Presi­dent Ronald Rea­gan’s Secretary of De­fense, should be our nation’s guiding principle for going to, and ending, war.

The KDVC is dedicated to responsible government, inclusion, compassion, dignity, and accountability, and we invite people from all walks of American life to join us to help bring this country together.

Let’s start Nov. 5 by voting.

George Wright of Louisville is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served from 1976-1998 and 2006-2009 and was a senior civil servant at the Pentagon from 2009-2017. He is founder and chairman of the Kentucky Demo­cratic Veterans Council and can be reached at KyDem VetsCouncil@gmail.com.

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