Vets For Freedom


Vets For Freedom

Vets For Freedom is an American political advocacy organization founded in 2006 by veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars. Its stated purpose is advocacy of victory in America's ongoing War on Terrorism, and support of candidates with positions consistent with this goal. Vets For Freedom is a tax-exempt, nonpartisan political action committee.

Activities

Organizational work

Spokesmen for VFF appear on televised news shows and write op-ed pieces for newspapers. The organization has also issued a number of press releases. Vets for Freedom sponsored a full-page political ad in the Hartford Courant on August 14, 2006 [http://www.vetsforfreedom.org/news/courant.aspx] endorsing Democratic US Senator Joe Lieberman and embarked on a television advertising campaign in Connecticut supportive of his reelection. [ [http://www.vetsforfreedom.org/multimedia/details.aspx?ID=18 Vets for Freedom ] ] [ [http://www.vetsforfreedom.org/multimedia/details.aspx?ID=17 Vets for Freedom ] ] [ [http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FB0914FC345A0C718CDDA00894DE404482 War Veterans Lend Support To Lieberman In TV Ads - New York Times ] ] Additionally, they financed an ad campaign in Georgia to support embattled Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall in 2006. He won by the smallest margin of any Democratic congressman that year. [http://www.vetsforfreedom.org/news/macontelegraph_marshall.pdf]

In March 2008 Vets for Freedom launched a nation-wide event called the "National Heroes Tour." The trip made national news when a scheduled event was canceled by Forest Lake High School in Minnesota. Many media outlets such as the Drudge Report picked up the story and the school was flooded by emails and phone calls of protest.

Vets on the Hill I and II

On Tuesday, September 18, 2007 Vets for Freedom took part in a breakfast on the south lawn of the White House with President George W. Bush, the First Lady, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Following the program, over 250 members of the organization lobbied members of the U.S. House and Senate to "support Gen. Petraeus and the War in Iraq" and to ask them to denounce MoveOn.org's attack on "General Betray-us." A 3 p.m. rally near the Capitol that day featured speeches from Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and John Cornyn. Remarks were also made by Rep. Roy Blunt.

One day later Senator Jim Webb's amendment to reduce troop rotation levels failed by four votes. The amendments was called a "slow bleed amendment" by critics. Vets for Freedom was strongly opposed to the legislation and lobbied aggresively for its defeat.

Vets for Freedom held a second Vets on the Hill in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, April 8, 2008. Over 450 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans attended the program and met with senators and representatives from every state. Vets for Freedom claimed it was the largest gathering on Capitol Hill of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. A rally was held at 8:30am edt that featured speeches from Sen. John McCain, Sen. Joe Lieberman, and Rep. Jim Marshall. 27 media outlets covered the event which was held the same day as Gen. Petraeus' testimony before the Senate. Earlier in the day at a breakfast program Vets for Freedom members heard motivational speeches from retired Gen. Richard Myers, a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and current Georgetown men's basketball coach John Thompson III.

2008 presidential campaign

In October 2008, Veterans for Freedom paid for a multimillion-dollar ad campaign criticizing the presidential candidacy of Senator Barack Obama. The group accuses the Democratic presidential nominee of caring more about his campaign than about troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. [cite news|url=http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/07/ad.spending/index.html|title=Independent groups are new power in political ads|last=Preston|first=Mark|date=2008-10-07|publisher=CNN|accessdate=2008-10-08] Previously, Vets for Freedom aired other advertisements criticizing Senator Obama's position on the Iraq War [ [http://www.vetsforfreedom.org/multimedia/default.aspx?t=Advertisement Vets for Freedom media center] ] .

On October 10, 2008 Veterans for Freedom released a Senate Analysis scorecard [http://www.vetsforfreedom.org/documents/2007SenateAnalysis.pdf] , similar to the one [http://www.veteranreportcard.org/reportcard.pdf] recently released by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. In IAFA's scorecard, Sen John McCain was given the grade of D, and Sen Barack Obama graded B. In the VFF scorecard, every single democratic senator was given the lowest possible grade of F. Only 3 Republican senators were graded F, with 38 Republican senators receiving the grade of A+. VFF gave Sen Obama the score of 0.5%, or second lowest, and gave his running mate Sen Joe Biden the score of 0.0%, tying him for last place with Senator Ted Kennedyof Massachusetts. John McCain received a score of 93.5% and the grade of A-.

Controversy

Vets for Freedom has been accused by the progressive Center for Media and Democracy of being a front group for Republican political activities [ [http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Vets_for_Freedom Vets for Freedom - SourceWatch ] ] and being directed by GOP managers. [ [http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2007/08/01/colemaniraq/ MPR: Vets group runs ads in support of Coleman ] ]

Founders

* Wade Zirkle is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and served two deployments to Iraq with Marine infantry units. He fought in the First Battle of Fallujah as a platoon leader. Eight Marines under his command were killed in action. Zirkle was severely burned by a suicide car-bomb in Fallujah in 2004. [ [http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0501/26/pzn.01.html CNN.com - Transcripts ] ]
* David Bellavia is a former Army Staff Sergeant who served in the 1st Infantry Division (Task Force 2-2). He was recommended for the Medal of Honor, nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross, and received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star (v), and the Conspicuous Service Cross. In 2006 he was invited to attend the President's State of the Union address as an honored guest. Bellavia has been the subject to some notoriety in the military for action he took on November 10, 2004, where he singlehandedly stormed a house full of insurgent fighters at night. He not only fought the attacking insurgents off, he managed to kill them all. Out of ammunition, Bellavia stabbed the last attacking insurgent to death with his pocketknife in a hand to hand combat. [ [http://www.blackfive.net/main/2006/06/ssg_david_bella.html BLACKFIVE: SSG David Bellavia - Someone You Should Know Radio ] ] [ [http://www.redstate.com/story/2006/7/18/204053/015 The Greatest Generation | Redstate ] ]

In 2004, Bellavia was the subject of a Time Magazine cover story titled "Into the Hot Zone" [ [http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,1101041122-782070,00.html Into the Hot Zone] ] which won a Pulitzer Prize. [http://www.vetsforfreedom.org/about/ Vets for Freedom ] ] According to Publishers Weekly, Bellavia secured a book deal in the neighborhood of $500,000.00. [ [http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6374594.html?display=current&industry=Deals&verticalid=792 Deals - 9/25/2006 - Publishers Weekly ] ] The book was titled "House to House", [ [http://www.davidbellavia.com/ House to House ] ] and was published in September 2007.

Zirkle and cofounder David Bellavia, now a writer, returned to Iraq as civilian reporters in 2006 and embedded with the Iraqi Army in Ramadi. Their articles were published in the "Philadelphia Enquirer" [http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/editorial/14973936.htm] and the "Weekly Standard". [ [http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/443zhpmy.asp Birth of an Army ] ]

Bellavia and Zirkle appear regularly on CNN and Fox News Channel as representatives of "Vets for Freedom" to offer commentary on the Global War on Terror.

* Co-founder Owen West is a Marine reservist who served in Force Reconnaissance during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. West is a graduate of Harvard College and Stanford Business School. His first novel won the Boyd Literary Award for best military novel. He has written several articles on the military and outdoor adventures and recently won the 2005 Marine Corps Essay Contest. [ [http://www.westwrite.com/ www.westwrite.com, Francis West, Owen West ] ] He lives in New York City with his family.

* Co-founder Joe Worley was badly injured in an ambush in Fallujah in 2004. He was struck by an EID and shot five times in a coordinated insurgent ambush. His left leg was blown off in the assault and he now is confined to a wheelchair because of a badly damaged right leg. [ [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/11/10/60II/main654978.shtml Wounded In Fallujah, David Martin Reports On The Families Of Injured Marines - CBS News ] ] He is the recipient of a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for Valor.

* Co-founder Mark Seavey spent one year as an infantry squad leader in Afghanistan and now works for a veterans organization in Washington. In 2006, he confronted Congressmen Moran and Murtha at a Townhall meeting. [ [http://www.blackfive.net/main/2006/01/vets_taking_on_.html BLACKFIVE: Vets taking on Murtha and Moran ] ] . The exchange was recorded by C-SPAN. [ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMkewjF9M08 YouTube - Mark Seavey Confronts Murtha ] ] He later appeared on CNN Sunday Morning to give more details, and rebut accusations made against him by the antiwar community. [ [http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0601/22/sm.02.html Transcript of CNN interview] Seavey is a graduate of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.

* Co-founder Knox Nunnally is a former Marine infantry officer who served three deployments to Iraq. He is a Purple Heart and Bronze Star reciepient. Nunnally has been quoted in "USA Today", [ [http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2006-05-02-humvee-deaths_x.htm USATODAY.com - Humvee deaths on the rise despite armor upgrades ] ] the "Philadelphia Inquirer", [http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/editorial/14842898.htm] [http://www.military.com/NewContent/0,13190,SS_063004_Patrol,00.html Stars and Stripes] and has written a piece on his experiences in Iraq for Per Contra Magazine. [http://percontra.net/3fightforfreedom.htm] [http://percontra.net/summercontributors.htm] Nunnally is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland and is currently a student at the University of Texas School of Law.

*Co-founder Chris Neizdiocha was a Marine Infantry Officer who was the recipient of a Silver Star for leading a counterattack that killed 23 Taliban fighters in 2004. He has written a tactical article for the "Marine Corps Gazette" [ [http://www.mca-marines.org/GAZETTE/ Marine Corps Gazette ] ] titled "CAAT and Mouse". A CAAT is a "Combined Anti-Armor Team." Neizdiocha is a graduate of Penn State.

Political connections

* In 2006 Vets for Freedom supported three candidates for office; Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA), and Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO.)

*As of May 2008, Vets for Freedom is supporting five candidates for the House of Representatives, all of them Republicans who have served in the armed forces. [ [http://www.vetsforfreedom.org/pac/ Vets For Freedom PAC ] ]

* Zirkle was a regional field director for Republican Jerry Kilgore's unsuccessful 2005 campaign for governor of Virginia.Jerry Zremski, [http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial/20060625/1066005.asp "Former vets with GOP ties boost war effort in blogs"] , "Buffalo News", June 25, 2006]

* A "key Vets for Freedom adviser is Bill Andresen, a Democrat and former chief of staff to embattled Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut." [ [http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=BN&p_theme=bn&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&s_dispstring=allfields(Batavia%20veteran%20presses%20Bush%20to%20fight%20harder%20in%20Iraq)%20AND%20date(01/01/2006%20to%2012/31/2007)&p_field_date-0=YMD_date&p_params_date-0=date:B,E&p_text_date-0=01/01/2006%20to%2012/31/2007)&p_field_advanced-0=&p_text_advanced-0=(%22Batavia%20veteran%20presses%20Bush%20to%20fight%20harder%20in%20Iraq%22)&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&xcal_useweights=no The Buffalo News(TM) - News Library : Simple Search ] ]
*Among the Vets for Freedom advisors are "Weekly Standard" Editor Bill Kristol and former Iraqi Coalition Provisional Spokesman Dan Senor. [ [http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2006Sep05/0,4670,ConnecticutSenate,00.html FOXNews.com - Veterans Group Backing Lieberman - Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum ] ]

Funding

VFF has applied for status as a tax-exempt nonprofit, but as of June 2006 the application was not approved. Zirkle said that "Initial funding came from family members and friends." It is now a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. [ [https://secure.donationreport.com/donation.html?key=TPMTNORNECSO Vets for Freedom donation page] ]

Vets for Freedom states on their homepage [ [http://vetsforfreedom.org/ VetsForFreedom.org ] ] "We depend on small donations from our thousands of supporters across America."

The National Journal has reported that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the third richest man in America, has made a significant donation to Vets For Freedom. [cite news|url=http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/ks_20080712_6543.php?related=true&story1=null&story2=null&story3=null|title=From the K Street Corridor|date=12 July 2008|publisher=National Journal Magazine|accessdate=2008-08-01]

References

*"Vets for Freedom" [http://arosebyname.blogspot.com/2006/05/vets-for-freedom.html A Rose By Another Name] May 30, 2006

*David Bellavia, American Hero [http://www.floppingaces.net/index.php?tag=vets_for_freedom Flopping Aces] July 17, 2006

*Army Staff Sergeant David Bellavia [http://cotillion.mu.nu/archives/181484.php Cotillion] June 13, 2006

*Vets for Freedom [http://www.deanesmay.com/posts/1144943984.shtml Dean's World] April 25, 2006

Notes

External links

* [http://www.vetsforfreedom.org/ Vets For Freedom] official website
* [http://www.vetsforfreedom.org/volunteer/ Vets For Freedom volunteer page]
* [http://www.opensecrets.org/527s/527cmtedetail.php?cycle=2008&ein=205258611 Overview and spending] at OpenSecrets.org
* [http://www.radioblogger.com/archives/april06.html#001542 Vets For Freedom arrives on the scene] Radio interview with Wade Zirkle, with audio and transcript.
* Mackubin Thomas Owens [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/07/05/opinion/main1775680.shtml "Press-ing On Against The Military: Our Troops Deserve Better Than Vietnam-Era Journalism"] , "National Review Online", July 5, 2006


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