by Eric Field
On Presidents Day 2012, I attended the “Ron Paul is the choice of the troops” rally and March in Washington, D.C. Like most participants at the event, I’m not an activist. I’m just a disabled combat veteran who served as an Army Ordnance/logistics and infantry officer from 2001 till 2010. Like most post-911 combat vets, I’ve held a string of contract and temporary jobs since leaving the Army. I’m engaged in the nonstop pursuit of a “real” job, the elusive goal of finding a job with long-term potential for growth and stability. And again like a lot of veterans, my “severance” package consisted of the vocational rehabilitation program, which translates into a tax supported opportunity for higher education. All of these obligations, not the least of which is the daily obligation of home and family, translate into a shortage of time and energy to focus on a specific issue. I’d like to reiterate that I’m not a professional activist. I’m simply another American concerned with the state of freedom in my country.
I’d first heard of the Veterans for Ron Paul event a couple of months earlier. I had heard Adam Kokesh discuss his plan for a veterans event, but I was hesitant to get involved. I respect Adam’s efforts at civil disobedience, but had no desire to participate directly. And besides, I assumed that this event would be fairly small, since Adam had initially only predicted a “platoon sized element”. In January, I attended a meetup for the Richmond, Virginia Ron Paul club. I met Nate Cox, co organizer of the Presidents Day march with Adam Kokesh. At the time, nothing came of the event, but I did get Nate’s contact information, and we discussed my interviewing Nate for an online column that I write. I interviewed Nate a couple of days prior to the event, and found Nate to be a well-spoken, intelligent, and thoughtful person. His experiences in the Army, much like my own, had led him to pursue a self-study of philosophy, libertarian principles, Austrian economics, and related topics of freedom. Even after interviewing Nate, I had still not made up my mind to take off work and attend. It wasn’t until my wife convinced me that it would be a mistake to miss the opportunity to meet other veterans interested in the cause of liberty that I decided to go.
Since I live in the metro Richmond area, traveling to the Washington Monument only takes a couple of hours. My road trip was a lot less demanding and less eventful than a number of participants who had come from around the country. Nate Cox told me that at least one veteran traveled all the way from Alaska to attend the event. On the other hand, I drove in to D.C. about an hour before the event started, taking my time to find a decent parking spot in the always crowded capital district. Driving around the federal buildings, with their concrete barriers and BDU clad police reminded me of my time in the Green Zone, the (formerly) American secured area around the Iraqi ministries. In many unfortunate ways, it seems that the war on terror has truly come home, as American security officials seem every bit as afraid as the American public as the Iraqi government is afraid of its citizens.
The event itself was impressive, with at least 1,500 attending by my estimate. As a relative newcomer to organized libertarian events, I find that each includes a kind of pleasant surprise, as attendees find that they aren’t the only people in the room aware of concepts like the nonaggression axiom. For myself, this event was particularly interesting in that this was the greatest number of libertarian veterans that I’d ever seen in my life. While I am aware of the high levels of donations that Dr. Paul has received from military personnel during this and the last campaign, as well as the work done by groups such as Oath Keepers, I have run in to very few Soldiers or veterans who would describe themselves as libertarians or liberty advocates. At the march, I met veterans who had served in conflicts as far back as the Korean War, to conflicts as recent as the Global War on Terror. I also had the chance to run in to a couple of classmates who had attended the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s Mises University with me the previous summer. I was struck by the diversity of the crowd, a direct contrast to mainstream media critiques that libertarianism is an exclusively white male club. To the contrary, I met dozens of female participants, some veterans, some spouses of veterans, and some simply attending the event. I also met Asian-Americans, African-Americans, observant Jews wearing yamakas, and even a number of Canadian bloggers flying the maple leaf flag.
At the start of the march, it featured a number of recording artists to include Jordan Page, Tatiana Moroz and James Grundler of Golden State. James Grundler deserves special thanks for continuing to play his heart out during the acoustic version of Bombs, even after the sound system had gone out. Interspersed with the music and organizing notes from Adam Kokesh and Nate Cox were speeches by notable veterans and supporters associated with the liberty movement. Some included former SSG Zak Carter, retired LTC and current candidate for Virginia’s sixth congressional district, Karen Kwiatoski, as well as CPL Jesse Thorsen, the National Guard Soldier made famous by CNN’s convenient technical difficulties on the night of the Iowa caucus. The speeches ended with Adam Kokesh’s “open letter to Obama”, followed by the participants falling to ranks.
The formation itself was a battalion mass, made up of 8 ranks, with at least 320 in formation. The Disabled Veterans for Ron Paul sponsored an 800 series 5 ton vehicle to transport a number of veterans unable to march. The mile and a half march to and from the White House was impressive, I will admit that in all my years of education at a military college and military service did not prepare me to be part of a formation of troops chanting “end the wars” and “end the fed”. After halting in front of the White House, the formation did an about face, turning their backs on the commander in chief’s residence. We held a hand salute for eight minutes in honor of those active duty service members who had committed suicide while Obama was president, and then we stood at parade rest, for 40 minutes of silent prayer in honor of those combat casualties that had occurred under Obama. Following the prayer, the formation marched back to the Washington Monument and broke ranks.
The march was followed by a party that I was not able to attend, but I have since heard of Adam and Nate’s plan to organize a similar event for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Based upon the level of participation that I have seen so far, I expect that this will be impressive as well. Ultimately, I think this gathering shows the solidarity of American veterans for ending our perpetual conflict, and returning to the constitutionally restricted model for which our military was established. I look forward to more of these shared experiences. I truly believe that this is only the beginning for bigger and greater things.
Eric Field is a former captain of the United States Army Ordnance Corps. He served nine years in a variety of infantry and logistics assignments. He served a combat tour in 2006-2007 with Military Transition Team 2107, attached to the Iraqi Army’s 7thMotorized Transportation Regiment. He is a recipient of the Iraqi Campaign Medal and Bronze Star Medal, as well as a graduate of the Citadel. He currently lives in the Richmond, Virginia area and works as a management consultant, as well as attending graduate school full time. His writings can be found at the Examiner, as well as his own blog, Addressing Causes and Effects.