By TERESA LO
Capital News Service
PHILADELPHIA — Answering the Republican National Convention and Donald Trump’s criticisms of the Democratic Party on veterans’ issues, the last night of the Democratic National Convention featured a ringing endorsement of Hillary Clinton from retired Army Capt. Florent Groberg from Bethesda, a Medal of Honor recipient.
“Soldiers spend years training for one moment, we don’t know when it will come, we don’t know what it will require, but we know when it arrives we will be ready,” Groberg said.
“Hillary Clinton has been training for this moment for decades,” the veteran and University of Maryland alumnus declared.
“When Hillary’s moment comes, she will be ready, ready to serve, ready to lead” and ready to defend veterans, Groberg said.
He praised Clinton for working with Republicans in the Senate to aid wounded warriors and their families.
“As president, she will reform the [Veterans Administration], not privatize it,” Groberg told the convention. “As commander-in-chief, she will defeat ISIS.”
Groberg received the nation’s highest valor award for confronting a suicide bomber and saving the lives of his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan. Groberg lost about 50 percent of his left calf muscle when the bomb detonated.
Before Groberg, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen spoke vigorously for Clinton’s national security credentials. He was surrounded by veterans.
“This is the moment, this is the opportunity for our future and that of the world,” Allen said. “We must seize this moment to elect Hillary Clinton as president of the United States of America.”
He added, “I also know with (Clinton) as our commander-in-chief, our international relations will not be reduced to a business transaction.”
Benjamin Brooks, a Baltimore delegate and a Vietnam War veteran, said Groberg’s speech captured the Democratic Party’s concern about the well-being and support of veterans.
“(Groberg) being from my state, representing all veterans on the national stage, it means a lot,” Brooks said. “It sends a powerful message, not only to veterans across the U.S., but especially those veterans from my great state of Maryland.”
Isiah Leggett, the county executive of Montgomery County and a member of the Maryland delegation, said Groberg’s speech showed that the Democrats respect veterans and their service to the country.
“I think it’s wonderful that the Democrats are recognizing veterans for their contribution,” Leggett, a Vietnam War veteran living in Burtonsville, said. “And having the Medal of Honor (recipient) speak tonight gives a great deal of input in Democratic values.”
Groberg’s speech, and others included in the “Stronger Together: Supporting Our Military” section of the program, was a rebuttal to the Republican National Convention’s first night, themed “Make America Safe Again.”
The Republican National Convention emphasized Hillary Clinton’s connection to a 2012 Islamic militant attack on a United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others. Pat Smith, the mother of diplomat Sean Smith, who was among the other three killed in the attack, spoke at the Republican National Convention and blamed Clinton for her son’s death.
However, veterans and military family members among the Maryland delegation at the
Democratic National Convention said they were not concerned with Republicans focusing on Benghazi and how it may impact the election.
Cheryl Everman, a widow of a veteran and a Maryland delegate, said, “The military tends to naturally be heavily Republican, but I think over time you’re actually seeing more and more people within the military…move towards the Democratic party.”
Everman’s grandson is part of the eighth consecutive generation in her family to serve in the military. He’s currently in Army boot camp.
She said the veterans she knows don’t feel Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has the temperament to be commander-in-chief.
Brooks said the emphasis put on Benghazi at the RNC was “strictly political” and would have no real impact on veteran voters.
He cited the Heroes at Home Act of 2006, which Clinton introduced as a senator from New York, as the reason he supported her on veterans’ issues. The proposal, which did not pass, would have funded community-based mental health assistance programs for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or brain trauma.
“We’ve seen her body of work. She’s always been out there helping, doing good for the people,” Brooks said.
Leggett said he supported Clinton because she has specific plans to address housing and medical care for veterans, in addition to correcting staffing challenges at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who lives in Takoma Park, said Clinton was the most experienced and intelligent nominee to be “captain of the ship.”
Franchot, who served in the Army from 1968 to 1970, said, “I would urge every veteran, and every person in law enforcement, anyone concerned with public safety to obviously support Secretary Clinton.”
There were seven veterans among the 139 delegates from Maryland at the convention, and they were all Clinton delegates, according to the state Democratic party.