Tampa veterans' town hall

Veterans' and military issues are going to shape the conversation around the 2012 elections in a major way—nowhere more so than in a state like Florida, which has 1.6 million veterans, making it one of the highest populations of veterans in the country.

Today Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz held a town hall meeting with Tampa-area veterans, to talk about the President's strong record of accomplishment on veterans' and military issues and to discuss with the group how the Democratic Party can best serve those who served our country.

"I can express pride in President Obama for being a man of his word," said the chair. "A lot of candidates make promises, but Barack Obama made promises, and he kept them. He's ended the war in Iraq, and we're starting to wind down our involvement in Afghanistan. President Obama has made a commitment to end homelessness for veterans, and we're going to make sure we help in any way possible. And he passed the G.I. Bill for the 21st century to ensure that the next generation of prosperity is sparked by our returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan."

"That's what patriotism is all about," she added. "Making sure people can make it in America. And that is in pretty dramatic contrast to the priorities of the Republican field."

That contrast is understood by military members like Reamonn Soto, who drove down from Tallahassee to be a part of the town hall. A former full-time active-duty Marine Corps sergeant who now serves in the Reserves while studying full-time, Soto says he wanted to be a part of the conversation about defining our future. He stands firmly behind the President, saying, "I feel safer as a Marine knowing that President Barack Obama is strengthening our ties with our allies and has pulled troops out of Iraq and is beginning to reduce number of troops in Afghanistan."

Soto and other Floridians have done a lot of activism around veterans' and military issues—hugely important in a state with such a large population of veterans and wounded warriors. Through roundtable discussions, they talk to officials and teach other vets how to frame the issues. They've held press conferences on the steps of Florida's old state capitol, written op-eds, and met with legislators. Now, with the 2012 elections less than a year away, he's focusing on helping mobilize his community to show up in support of their commander-in-chief at the polls.

Leo Cruz, a Navy veteran, says, "One of the things as a veteran that we're able to do is connect with other veterans. We have that connection through our service, and we can branch into politics and talk about the President's record. I've found that once we deliver that message of the President's success, most veterans say, 'He's got a plan, and I'm willing to stand behind him.'"

"President Obama has made a commitment to the promise to protect and serve our veterans—to 'ensure our country serves them as well as they serve us,' as he said in the State of the Union. That's why veterans and military families are going to get out the vote for Barack Obama."

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