BY PHILLIP GIORNO
My family and I have a long history of service to this country. I was born into a military family at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and I spent my childhood growing up on military bases in Okinawa, Japan, Germany and England. But military service doesn’t just run deep in my family’s heritage — I know firsthand the sacrifice it requires.
During the Vietnam War, I volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy 1967-72. I was proud to serve then, and I’m still proud to serve now — in a different capacity.
As the president of the Democratic Veterans Caucus of Florida’s Volusia County chapter, I advocate for my fellow veterans every day. I represent our interests and work hard to make sure that military veterans are reflected in electoral politics in Florida and around the nation. It’s a position I hold with pride.
No matter what position I hold, I’ll always be honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with the countless other men and women who have answered the call to defend our great country, because I know what they’ve given up to serve.
While many of us understand the values of military service, it’s clear that not everyone does. In fact, some elected officials are openly disrespecting military members by using them as pawns in their political games.
Since February, Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville has been blocking every military nomination and promotion over his personal disagreement with a Pentagon policy that grants leave and offsets travel expenses for military personnel who cannot get an abortion in the state where they are stationed. It’s a shameful political stunt, and it’s an affront to the folks who put their lives on the line to defend our country.
What’s worse is that Florida’s own Gov. Ron DeSantis has come out in support of Sen. Tuberville, showing us he’s more concerned with his own agenda than honoring the brave service members who fight to protect our freedoms and our way of life.
This holdup isn’t just misguided — it has serious implications for our national security, global leadership and troop morale. By tying up these critical nominations and promotions, Sen. Tuberville is hindering the readiness of our armed forces.
Over the past several months, the Senate has held up more than 300 military promotions and nominations, turning what should be a standard procedural vote into a deadlock. What should have taken minutes has become a process that could take months to complete. And there is no end in sight with Congress adjourned for its August recess.
As a veteran, I know that keeping our armed forces ready is absolutely critical to the security of our country. By stonewalling these promotions, Sen. Tuberville is actively choosing to kneecap our military and putting his own political games over the safety of American interests at home and abroad.
Beyond the impacts on our military readiness, Sen. Tuberville’s partisan games are also causing damage and disruption for military families, as their pay and assignments are frozen. Military families, who have already sacrificed so much, are unable to get new housing or enroll their kids at new schools this fall. Military spouses don’t know where or when they can apply for new jobs. It’s unacceptable.
Despite his claims that “there’s no one more military” than him, Sen. Tuberville has never served in the armed forces. But as a veteran himself, I would expect Gov. Ron DeSantis to know better.
That’s why DeSantis’ support for Sen. Tuberville’s antics is all the more disappointing — though it’s hardly surprising.
Long before he launched his 2024 presidential campaign, DeSantis made it clear that he will always put his political career ambitions above the people of Florida.
Since kicking off his 2024 run, he’s made his extreme position on abortion and other cultural issues, dictatorial demagoguery, and his love for cheap political stunts cornerstones of his campaign.
He’s shown us time and time again that he’ll do anything to score political currency, and now, he’s shown us that he’s willing to let Florida’s armed service members pay the price.
While MAGA Republicans play games with our national security, President Biden is focused on being the commander in chief our country needs.
As president, he’s advocated tirelessly for military families, including by passing the PACT Act to strengthen health care and benefits for America’s veterans and their survivors.
DeSantis, on the other hand, won’t be the commander in chief our country deserves. Instead, he’ll use our armed forces as a testing ground for his extreme agenda, and he’ll spend his time stoking culture wars instead of keeping our service members at the ready.
DeSantis has made a grave miscalculation. Our military men and women know that the real threat to our safety isn’t “wokeness” or Pentagon policies, the real threat is a politician who puts his own ambitions above national security.
And if he doesn’t tank his own campaign before then, come 2024, veterans will make sure DeSantis has no path to the White House and re-elect President Biden and Vice President Harris to finish the job.
— Giorno, of Deltona, is past chair of the Volusia County Council, a member of the American Legion, and a life member of the Disabled American Veterans, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.