Vets_SB

SIGNE BREWSTER/Herald photo

A panel of veterans spoke to University of Wisconsin community members Monday about their experiences at war and why they will support Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in the November election.

The panelists spoke about their time in Iraq and Afghanistan and how this influenced their choice to support the Illinois senator, citing what they called Obama’s commitment to providing health care to veterans.

“We were called to duty and we answered that call,” said Abbie Pickett, a veteran of the Iraq war and Desert Storm. “Now where is the support that we need? I came back to a brand-new, different world. Getting help wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.”

Pickett sought out psychological care during her tour in Iraq, but said the disorganization of the system prevented her from getting the treatment she needed. She started to drink heavily and entered a “downward spiral.”

According to Pickett, she eventually became an advocate for others in need of help and campaigning for Obama is an extension of it.

“I had to look beyond the war hero stories. I looked at the policies and the voting record, and time after time John McCain wasn’t the answer,” Pickett said. “He isn’t the maverick he is made out to be.”

Panelists also made note of Obama’s support for the Veterans Educational Act of 2008 — better known as the new G.I. Bill — which would grant veterans who have served three years of active duty since the 2001 terrorist attacks funding for 100 percent of their education at a four-year public, undergraduate university.

Graham Coumpmer, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, noted current benefits would pay for about one-third of the costs for him to attend college.

He said he supports Obama because he is the only candidate who would give him the assistance he needs by enabling him to afford college.

Iraqi veteran David Boecher addressed Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s status as a veteran, dismissing that this gives him a connection to modern veterans.

“The one difference between McCain and other veterans is that when he came back, he was a millionaire,” Boecher said. “He didn’t have to look for help … it was there for him privately.”

UW senior and Students for McCain Co-Chair Allison Nelson said McCain’s financial stability does not negate the experiences he had at war.

“He understands where veterans are coming from because he experienced war for himself,” Nelson said. “He wants everyone to have the same opportunities he had. McCain supports increasing war funds and that will directly affect the soldiers.”

Students for Obama Chair Ami Elshareif said she was satisfied with the event.

“I feel very honored that people who have done so much for our country are willing to come and share their perspective,” Elshareif said. “I hope it gives everyone a different perspective on what it takes to be a part of the military.”