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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 non-profit organization. Vets for Freedom PAC is an associated, but separate tax-exempt, nonpartisan political action committee.

Activities[edit | edit source]

Organizational work[edit | edit source]

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[1] endorsing Democratic US Senator Joe Lieberman and embarked on a television advertising campaign in Connecticut supportive of his reelection.[2][3][4] 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.[5]

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[edit | edit source]

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 aggressively 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[edit | edit source]

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.[6] Previously, Vets for Freedom aired other advertisements criticizing Senator Obama's position on the Iraq War.[7]

On October 10, 2008 Veterans for Freedom released a Senate Analysis scorecard.[8] In the VFF scorecard, every single Democratic senator was given the lowest possible grade of F. Three Republican senators were graded F, and 38 Republican senators received 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 Kennedy of Massachusetts. John McCain received a score of 93.5% and the grade of A-.

2010 congressional campaign[edit | edit source]

Italicized denotes successful run. In a campaign called "Operation 10-in-10," Vets for Freedom backed 10 Republican congressional candidates in the 2010 congressional elections. The Iraq and Afghanistan veterans running for office included Allen West (FL-22), Steve Stivers (OH-15), Jonathan Paton (AZ-8), Ilario Pantano (NC-7), Adam Kinzinger (IL-11), Joe Heck (NV-3), Chris Gibson (NY-20), Brian Rooney (MI-7), Kevin Calvey (OK-5), and Tim Griffin (AR-2).[9]

Controversy[edit | edit source]

Vets for Freedom has been accused by the Center for Media and Democracy of being a front group for Republican political activities[10] and being directed by GOP managers.[11]

Founders[edit | edit source]

  • Wade Zirkle is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and served two deployments to Iraq with Marine infantry units as a Lieutenant. 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.[12]
  • David Bellavia is a former U.S. 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 hand to hand combat.[13][14]

In 2004, Bellavia was the subject of a Time Magazine cover story titled "Into the Hot Zone"[15] which won a Pulitzer Prize.[16] According to Publishers Weekly, Bellavia secured a book deal with Simon & Schuster.[17] The book was titled House to House,[18] 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 Inquirer[19] and the Weekly Standard.[20]

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 Captain 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.[21] 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 IED and shot five times in a coordinated insurgent ambush. His left leg was blown off in the assault and he now uses a wheelchair because of a badly damaged right leg.[22] He is the recipient of a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for Valor.[16]
  • Co-founder Sergeant Mark Seavey spent one year as an infantry squad leader in Afghanistan and now works for a veterans organization in Washington.[16] In 2006, he confronted Congressmen Moran and Murtha at a Townhall meeting.[23] The exchange was recorded by C-SPAN.[24] He later appeared on CNN Sunday Morning to give more details, and rebut accusations made against him by the antiwar community.[25] Seavey is a graduate of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.[16]
  • Co-founder Captain Knox Nunnally is a former Marine infantry officer who served three deployments to Iraq. He is a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient.[16] Nunnally has been quoted in USA Today,[26] the Philadelphia Inquirer,[27][28] and has written a piece on his experiences in Iraq for Per Contra Magazine.[29][30] Nunnally is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland and is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law.
  • Co-founder Major 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.[16] He has written a tactical article for the Marine Corps Gazette[31] titled "CAAT and Mouse". A CAAT is a "Combined Anti-Armor Team." Neizdiocha is a graduate of Penn State.[16]

Political connections[edit | edit source]

  • As of May 2008, Vets for Freedom was supporting five candidates for the House of Representatives, all of them Republicans who have served in the armed forces.[32]
  • Zirkle was a regional field director for Republican Jerry Kilgore's unsuccessful 2005 campaign for governor of Virginia.[33]
  • A "key Vets for Freedom adviser is Bill Andresen, a Democrat and former chief of staff to embattled Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut."[34]
  • Among the Vets for Freedom advisors are Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol and former Iraqi Coalition Provisional Spokesman Dan Senor.[35]

Funding[edit | edit source]

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."[33] It is now a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization.[36]

Vets for Freedom states on their homepage[37] "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.[38]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. [1]
  2. Vets for Freedom
  3. Vets for Freedom
  4. Medina, Jennifer (September 2, 2006). "War Veterans Lend Support To Lieberman In TV Ads". The New York Times. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FB0914FC345A0C718CDDA00894DE404482. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  5. [2]
  6. Preston, Mark (2008-10-07). "Independent groups are new power in political ads". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/07/ad.spending/index.html. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  7. Vets for Freedom media center
  8. [3]
  9. http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/vets-freedom-backs-10-iraqafghanistan-veterans-running-2010 Weekly Standard: Vets for Freedom Backs 10 Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans Running in 2010
  10. Vets for Freedom - SourceWatch
  11. MPR: Vets group runs ads in support of Coleman
  12. "CNN.com". CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0501/26/pzn.01.html. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  13. BLACKFIVE: SSG David Bellavia - Someone You Should Know Radio
  14. The Greatest Generation | Redstate
  15. Into the Hot Zone
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 Vets for Freedom
  17. Deals - 9/25/2006 - Publishers Weekly
  18. House to House
  19. [4]
  20. Birth of an Army
  21. www.westwrite.com, Francis West, Owen West
  22. "Wounded In Fallujah". CBS News. November 10, 2004. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/11/10/60II/main654978.shtml. 
  23. BLACKFIVE: Vets taking on Murtha and Moran
  24. YouTube - Mark Seavey Confronts Murtha
  25. Transcript of CNN interview
  26. Kelley, Matt (May 3, 2006). "Humvee deaths on the rise". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2006-05-02-humvee-deaths_x.htm. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  27. [5]
  28. Stars and Stripes
  29. [6]
  30. [7]
  31. Marine Corps Gazette
  32. Vets For Freedom PAC
  33. 33.0 33.1 Jerry Zremski, "Former vets with GOP ties boost war effort in blogs", Buffalo News, June 25, 2006
  34. "The Buffalo News(TM) - News Library : Simple Search". Newsbank. 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. 
  35. "FOXNews.com - Veterans Group Backing Lieberman - Politics – Republican Party – Democratic Party – Political Spectrum". Fox News. May 4, 2012. http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2006Sep05/0,4670,ConnecticutSenate,00.html. 
  36. Vets for Freedom donation page
  37. VetsForFreedom.org
  38. "From the K Street Corridor". National Journal Magazine. 12 July 2008. http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/ks_20080712_6543.php?related=true&story1=null&story2=null&story3=null. Retrieved 2008-08-01. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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