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Local veterans differ on priority of election issues

BY STACEY MURRAY | OCTOBER 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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While United States veterans account for fewer than 10 percent of the electorate, they hold strong opinions on voting and particpation in democracy.

In the 2008 presidential election, 15.8 million veterans voted, accounting for roughly 8 percent of the popular vote. Currently, there are 21.9 million veterans in the U.S., according to the 2010 census, and 240,317 of them live in Iowa.

“I think if you have a democratic process, then obviously the greater good will happen — the most number of people will benefit from that process,” said Greg Touzani, the president of the University of Iowa’s Veterans Association. “That’s the point of democracy.”

Paul Deaton, a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1976-1979 and the current Veterans for Peace secretary, looks for people to be involved in the election as part of an obligation U.S. citizens have.

“We spent time and effort, and in some cases, risked our lives in order to ensure the right to a free society in the U.S.,” Deaton said. “The least people owe to veterans is to participate in the political process and vote.”

Yet Touzani doesn’t necessarily agree.

Just because citizens have the right to vote, it doesn’t mean they should exercise it if they are uneducated voters, he said.

Students at the UI Veteran’s Association hope to raise awareness for pre-9/11 vets because they seem to fall between the cracks, the Afghanistan veteran said.

Along with this awareness, students hope  to see a greater focus on veterans’ needs — even the relatively small ones. Those include improvement for the veterans’ hospital phone service because they say the system takes a long time to provide information to vets.

Apart from these more local issues, student veterans at the UI said they want to see a change to the GI bill — a financial support paid to veterans to aid in scholarly endeavors — along with an increase in awareness of the developments in Afghanistan.

In addition to the importance of voting in the U.S., Deaton said Afghanistan is a major political issue that must be addressed.

“Our intent [in Afghanistan] is very difficult to accomplish,” he said. “Their culture is so complex and it’s very set in their ways.”

John Frantz, the commander of the American Legion Post 17 in Iowa City, wants the government to keep a strong military — regardless of its size.

“They want to reduce the size of the military,” he said. “As long as the security is firm, I’m OK with it.”

Frantz served as a member of the U.S. Air Force in the Vietnam War.

While the veterans spoke to different issues, they agreed that they feel their voices are heard as veterans.

“I think of course anytime there’s a passionate group of people, they’re being heard,” Touzani said.

Yet the veterans of each era look at more than the military issues at hand.

“We’re more than just veterans,” Touzani said. “We have other things going on.”


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