My Response to Romney’s VMI Controversy
8 October 2012, Columbus Day- that late morning, I stood on the grounds of the alma mater of my late-friend, CPT Patrick Coyle. The moment was a bit somber, to say the least. Slowly strolling through VMI conjured up old memories of my buddy- thoughts that I had not had in months: good times at Ft Polk and Iraq- joyful times with his sisters, daughter, and wife. But, I did not go to VMI on behalf of my buddy…that’s what New Orleans is for in February. That day, I was at VMI because Mitt Romney was at VMI. The Thursday prior, OFA asked if I would be willing to travel to Lexington, VA to offer counter arguments to Mitt Romney’s national security speech. As the chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia’s Veterans and Military Family Caucus, the answer of yes was my natural reaction. I was to speak just prior to Mitt Romney’s address. In good Terron Sims fashion, I arrived an hour early, so I took the time to recon where Mitt Romney was to speak: The Marshall Center…you all know who he is… Having attended countless political speaking engagements, the initial scene in front of the Marshall Center was quite ordinary: campaign staff sitting behind and standing beside tables with lists of names: VIPs and Invited Guests.
Since Mitt Romney is a presidential candidate, the Secret Service agents standing guard at the entrances and along the front walk were expected. The rows of busses and large vans for the various media networks were also a common site. At each entrance to the Marshall Center stood a keydet at the position of parade rest. This too, seemed normal. Being a West Point grad myself, one tends to find cadets standing guard somewhere for some reason. As I stepped away from the Marshall Center to contact my OFA POCs, what I witnessed next did strike me as a bit odd and out of place.
A white van pulled up alongside the curb, and out stepped a retired Army general wearing his Class A uniform. I knew he was retired because he was too old to still be on active duty. With a small entourage, he casually walked into the Marshall Center. Seeing this, my senses became a bit more alerted, and I began to notice the number of uniformed personnel entering the Marshall Center to hear Mitt Romney speak. As I pondered on the ethical and legal ramifications of what I was witnessing, my first thought was, “Well, VMI is a public school,” but then I thought, “But that still does not allow people to attend a political function in uniform.” I felt a bit uneasy, or at least as uneasy as I am able to feel, and decided to leave. What I had witnessed was about the most blatant and disrespectful political act that I have ever encountered. The gall of Mitt Romney and his campaign to exploit service members…and the fact that the service members were allowing themselves to be exploited…took me to a place where I do not like to go: anger. Being that I was the only smart person at VMI that day, I was the only one who knew that an unethical act had occurred…
Terron Sims, II is a Truman Security Fellow