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MREA Re-Introduction Live-Blog

Hello Blenders, this is Daimeon serving up the live-blog Blend for you. Please be patient with me as this was my first liveblog. The truth is, it was live earlier but now I’m updating the post to include some more important quotes since I didn’t have a press-kit that the other members had to work with which included the full text of the speeches. (I have everyone’s except for Rep. Meehan’s, and Rep. Shay’s)

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When I arrived at 2, the place was packed with Media and presenters. The Briefing is going to be starting very soon and I’ll let you know the updates as they come along. I met with Rebecca Sawyer, Steve Ralls, and Sharra Greer of SLDN, and a special thanks to all of them for setting this up for us.

Events and Sgt. Alva’s Coming-Out story after the flip.

*At 2:20 PM Rep. Meehan started his comments introducing Marine Sgt. Brian Fricke and SSgt Eric Alva, 36, a native of San Antonio, was the first soldier injured in Iraq.

SSgt. Alva is coming out publicly and will be the official spokesperson of the HRC.

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*2:22Representative Meehan is re-introducing the Military Readiness Enhancement Act with 109 bipartisan members’ support.

“There was a recruiting goal defecit in 2005 of 24,000 members.” 24,000 members is a lot. President Bush wanted to send only 21,000 troops for his “escalation.” He reiterated the point that there is “[n]o place for discrimination to be codified into policy.” Again he spoke to the waivers for criminal activity. He said that the amount of waivers is up “80%” to this day.

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*2:30 Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) was the second speaker. He told the story of how he came to understanding the policy was bad by discussing openly gay former Rep. Jim Kolbe’s (R-AZ) story of being in the military and being gay. During the story he mentioned, “I was a Peace Corps volunteer and conscientious objector,” which is not a typical Republican comment in dealing with war but it’s a welcome admission. He next spoke on behalf of the bill calling the current policy “cruel.”

SSgt Brian Fricke next spoke of his personal story and why the current policy is failing.

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When I came out to colleagues before deploying to iraq, and while I was in Iraq, there was never any difference in the way we interacted with each other. We still accomplished our missions and maintained the same working environment. That is because our men and women in uniform are professional, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. My generation fights today to protect the future of Americans tomorrow.

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*At 2:40 SSgt Alva, came out, literally on two levels, speaking from the heart without a prepared speech. He spoke of his injury and even re-enlisting to go to Iraq. More on this later.


Video of the press conference, with Alva speaking about coming out. (H/t HRC, which has a web site for Alva.)

“I ask that this nation look at the discrimination that we see in the ranks and judge a person by that” “My life was nothing more private than anything else.”

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*2:47 C. Dixon Osburn then spoke talking about the various ways that service members have been wronged and why this bill is important 13 years after the implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Hitting on the points of national security and the Global War on Terror and the needs of the nation should outweigh the bigoted stances of the few who are afraid.

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* 2:52 The final speaker was Army Brig. Gen. Pat Foote (Ret.) spoke next. She called the policy a “most dysfunctional military policy” She underscored the importance of the recent leaders who have come out in support of repeal, Army Gen. John Shalikashvili (Ret.), and former Secretary of Defense, William Cohen. She also made the mention of the hypocrisy of the policy concerning the very core values that soldiers must adhere to, especially integrity. She said, “The institution itself does not respect the individual it serves,” and later added that the policy “defies logic and does not reflect the changing views of the American people.”

*3:00 The panelists answered the media’s questions. The first question asked was in regards to the level of support from Seaker Pelosi. Rep. Meehan said that shes been a “Longtime Supporter of lifting the ban.”

The typical question was brought up regarding privacy and shower arrangments. The answer was as it always is that it doesn’t matter. Sgt.’s Fricke and Alva both spoke about this with the added support of Rep. Shays.

The question was raised of how does the chairman feel? Historically he has not supported the repeal of the policy. What makes Rep Meehan think it will make it through committee? He said he’s “having a hearing.”

I asked the congressman offline because they didn’t see my hand raised…that under Massachusetts law if a person in the National Guard were to marry his/her partner would he or she be able to receive the benefits entitled to them, for example if a partner was deployed and perished overseas or in duty to the governor. Rep. Meehan was unsure but said he’d get back to me.

Sharra Greer provided the answer to me. The answer was no because the National Guard can be federalized and is therefore subject to the rules of DOMA if the bill passes because Federal law trumps state law. I can see this definitely being challenged and possibly winning in the courts if the bill passes. Yet another reason to support the repeal of this heinous policy.

The briefing has ended. I want to thank Pam for recommending me to Rebecca Sawyer to live-blog this event. It was a definite eye-opener (eye-popper) for me to try to accomplish this live. I had to use my cell phone for an Internet connection because the room was not wired for Internet access. Good thing I give Verizon an extra $50 a month for that privelage.

Let me know what you think. And if you have any more questions let me know. I’ll try to answer them and if I don’t have all the information we can get the answers from SLDN.

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