Bill Haslam introduced himself to “four no-nonsense veterans,” reports the Johnson City Press, by saying, “Hi guys. I just wanted to listen to what you had to say.” Here’s a sampler of what was said, following the introduction, from the article:
Porter told the candidate that he needed to “get on the legislators’ case about getting on board to help veterans. Take them in the back room and talk to them — whatever you have to do.”
The queries continued. And as they came, Haslam turned in his chair and faced each man when they spoke.
“Tell me more,” and “Keep going,” he responded many times.
“One of the main things I’m hearing is that some veterans returning from the Gulf Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan are finding it hard to get an education,” said Terry Nelson, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War. “Is there something the state can do? I’d like to see something more than federal holidays.”
No answers followed. At the same time, no campaign promises were offered up.
(Note: The Legislature did set up a “Helping Heroes Grant” program a couple of years ago that provides up to $1,000-per-semister grants to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan attending state colleges and universities. It’s described on the Tennessee Student Assistance Corp. website, HERE.)
… “During this time when the federal government is being so gracious with public funds, we seem to have a lack of continuity due to their inability to keep medical professionals out there (at the VA) for some reason or another,” said Mike Sanford, a U.S. Air Force veteran who fought in Vietnam and also worked for the Secret Service. “These vets need the best care the VA can provide.”
“Keep going — tell me what you mean,” Haslam replied.
“Now where do you stand on gun control?” Sanford asked.
“The Second Amendment gives you the right to bear arms,” Haslam said. “The Supreme Court has upheld that.”
“Good,” Sanford said moments before riding away on his Harley-Davidson.
“You Haslam — I don’t has something,” joked Claude Griffith, a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, as the two shook hands.
The Haslam campaign did news release on veteran visiting. It’s not as interesting as the article, but it’s reproduced below nonetheless.
Haslam campaign news release:
MOUNTAIN HOME – Republican gubernatorial candidate and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam today visited with veterans in East Tennessee, expressing his deep appreciation for their service and discussing ways he will support them as governor.
Heading into Memorial Day weekend and with the return to Fort Campbell yesterday of 119 soldiers of the 102nd Quarter Company who spent the last year in Iraq as well as another 120 soldiers from the 887th Engineer Company who are expected to arrive today, Mayor Haslam recognized the critical role our troops and veterans play in keeping this nation safe and the sacrifice they make to protect our way of life and the values we all hold dear.
“Tennessee has a proud tradition of service,” Haslam said. “We all owe our veterans a debt of gratitude, and I thank each and every one of them for all they have done and continue to do to protect our freedom and make America and our state a great place to live.”
Mayor Haslam visited the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in Mountain Home this morning and will meet later today with a group of veterans in Jonesborough, Tennessee. As governor, Mayor Haslam will work to address the unique needs of each generation of veterans in Tennessee, from those who served long ago to those who just returned home from service. Haslam, as the commander-in-chief of the Tennessee National Guard, will also lead an effort to make sure families of troops who are deployed receive the support they need during these difficult times.
Mayor Haslam will work to hold the federal government accountable and ensure veterans are receiving the benefits they are due in a timely manner. He will strive to make Tennessee the most attractive state in the country for veterans to live by recruiting jobs that utilize the technical skills troops learn during service and by keeping taxes low and ensuring Tennessee remains a state without an income tax.
“Our veterans served for our benefit, and now it’s time we serve them,” Haslam added. “As governor, I will make sure their contributions are not forgotten, and I will do all I can to make Tennessee a great place for veterans to live.”