There was a rather ironic moment in President Obama’s Veterans Day speech yesterday, when he chose to highlight one of the oldest living veterans in America, Richard Overton, who just so happens to be part of the Honor Flight program that entered the World War II Memorial in defiance of the government shutdown last month.
While Overton, 107, of Austin, Texas, was not part of the group that visited the monuments in October, he did visit Washington D.C. with a group of veterans in May. Honor Flight, the organization Overton is a member of, is the group that was initially barred from seeing the memorial.
“You have to know that the President had the balls to actually stand up and salute the World War II veterans and Honor Flight [yesterday],” Glenn said on radio this morning. “Do you remember what Honor Flight is? Honor Flight is the group that he tried to ban from the World War II Memorial – during the shutdown that he started. He did it!”
Here is some of what the President had to say yesterday:
OBAMA: Everybody, I want you to know a little something about Mr. Overton here. He was there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smoldering, he was there at Okinawa, he was there at Iwo Jima where he said I only got out of there by the grace of God. When the war ended, Richard headed home to Texas to a nation bitterly divided by race and his service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home. But this veteran held his head high.
“Stop for a second,” Glenn said. “This is the portion of the speech that I could not take.”
Glenn explained that his Uncle Leo was on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. He was born America, moved to Italy shortly after his birth, and then returned to the United States. He volunteered to serve, but was often mistaken for a spy because of his thick Italian accent.
“So they treated him like garbage,” Glenn said.
Leo’s best friend at the time was a fellow soldier who was African American. He didn’t know how to swim, but as they neared the beaches in Normandy, his friend was pushed off the boat. Leo tried everything he could to save his friend, but the weight of his packs proved to great. His friend ultimately drowned.
“Why did he drown? Because he was black. And why didn't they listen to my Uncle Leo? Because he was an Italian. So I got it, Mr. President. I got it. America was bad in the past,” Glenn said emotionally. “You know, let me tell you something: America's bad right now, today. Got it, Mr. President. It's Veterans Day. Can you not make everything about race? Can you not, even on Veterans Day, can you not just leave it alone one day?”
“I am sorry,” Glenn continued. “I got up this morning, and I said: I'm not going to be that man anymore. I'm not going to talk about this guy anymore. I am not going to let him get me upset anymore. I apologize. Many Americans, Mr. President, who vehemently disagree with you, agree that America has been a bad place. But once in a while, just once in a while, it would be nice to have a president that would say, ‘But it's really a glorious place. It is really a place of just massive brightness if we choose. And we have chosen before, and we have had those moments.’ But you don't believe that… I'm so offended. But we haven't even gotten to the point yet to where this guy has the audacity not of hope, the audacity to smear and to lie and to con knife… After closing down the World War II Memorial, after taking 80 and 90 and 100-year-old men and treating them like garbage, yesterday he has the audacity to say this:”
OBAMA: He carried on and lived his life with honor and dignity. He built his wife a house with his own two hands. He went back to work in the furniture business. In time he served as a courier in the Texas state capital where he worked for four governors and made more friends than most of us do in a lifetime. And today Richard still lives in the house that he built all those years ago, rakes his own lawn, and every Sunday he hops in his 1971 Ford truck and drives one of the nice ladies in his neighborhood to church.
CROWD: [ APPLAUSE ]
OBAMA: This is the life of one American veteran living proud and strong in the land he helped keep free. And earlier this year the great folks at Honor Flight Austin brought Richard to Washington for the first time.
“Oh, my gosh. They brought him for the first time, the people that he tried to shut down,” Glenn said mockingly. “The good folks at Honor Flight, the extremists that we had to have the Capital Police stand against, build a fence around that damn memorial… You do everything in your power to shut down Honor Flight… and then have the audacity to send your own people out there to harass and harangue and to call the congressmen that are opening up the gates that you erected and have the audacity to call them names and then to stand as the hero. I can't take it.”
“I apologize that you have to hear my venting,” Glenn concluded, “but I can't take this guy.”
Front page image courtesy of the AP