National veterans tour promotes clean energy, national security

By Jimy Valenti

Veterans hit the state Capitol’s west steps last Friday, educating citizens and lawmakers on the connection between climate change and national security.

“At first people say, ‘what are you talking about, climate change and national security?’” said 24-year Navy veteran Rick Hegdall. “And then people understand. If we buy fuel from unstable areas the cost of that fuel is more than we pay at the pump. Our military is being used, our treasury and most importantly lives are at stake, keeping the oil flowing to us.”

The Veterans for American Power National Tour, sponsored by Operation Free, stopped in Denver as part of a two-month national bus tour where veterans, most of whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan, discussed America’s dependence on foreign oil, its eventual funding of terrorist organizations and its responsibility for destabilizing climate change.

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, himself a Navy veteran, spoke at the event along with Iraq war veteran Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, and Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, whose son has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rice stressed the need for domestic sources of clean energy so energy policy will not enter into the discussion when deciding whether to go to war.

“Our dependence on foreign oil is in our decision cycle concerning national security and international relations, particularly when we deal with countries in the Middle East,” said Rice. “What we would like to be able to do is get energy out of that decision cycle. We may still have moral obligations or other security interests in the Middle East, but we can at least take energy out of the equation.”

Robin Eckstein served in Iraq in 2003. She drove a truck for the Army from Bagdad Airport to various outposts around the country delivering water and fuel. She said the daily drive was always at risk to IEDs and sniper fire.

“If we could have made just one less trip a week when delivering fuel we could have been that much safer,” said Eckstein, who now volunteers for Operation Free. “A more fuel efficient army is a safer one.”

The representatives also spoke about the economic benefits of green jobs, which can’t be outsourced, and the importance of greater American energy independence.

“There is great synergy between what were doing under the dome and what these veterans are doing out on the road,” said Shaffer.

Over the next two months, the veterans’ tour will travel to 16 states and hold nearly 60 events.