My main man Montel Williams is going to light up the room Wednesday as he delivers the keynote address for a forum on veterans issues, a topic he can get particularly fiery about. He also occasionally likes to mix it up with Washington journalists, that is when he’s not lobbying to appear on their shows. Atlantic Media’s Defense One and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are hosting the day-long event at the National Press Club.
Things will kick off at the ugly hour of 7:15 a.m. and run until 1:30 p.m.
But OK — to give credit where it’s due, Montel’s gotten himself mentioned at a White House press conference by general ass kicker April Ryan of American Urban Radio, and has officially landed on Washington’s radar, enough so that Defense One saw fit to ask the former talk show host to come and spice up their program.
My only sadness is that I’m unable to attend. I’ll be there in spirit, though, Montel. If anyone has witnessed some of our heated Twitter conversations, we’ve come a lonnnnggg way. I think we might even break bread someday, but I wouldn’t bet the farm it just yet.
On a semi-serious note, Montel, a 22-year military veteran, has now attempted to reach the White House half a dozen times to request a meeting on the state of the Department of Veterans Affairs. But his calls have fallen on deaf ears.
As his flack, Jonathan Franks, explained to The Mirror, “We have NEVER once presumed he was entitled to, nor have we requested a meeting with POTUS himself (other than a few rhetorical tweets that were directed at staff). When we placed a call to CoS’s office, the switch put us on hold and the office rejected the call and suggested MW leave a message on a public comment line, or fill out a web form.”
Franks says it wasn’t always this difficult. “When Lew was CoS and we needed to send a letter in re: a veterans issue, the office took the call and his assistant very graciously accepted the letter via email,” he said.
The Montel posse is truly baffled why he can’t get 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to take notice.
“The part I don’t understand is why the Administration is ducking,” said Franks. “If he’s wrong, they should say so, and he will consider their reasoning and might even change his mind! No elected official with whom we have requested a meeting, Republican or Democrat, has accepted. We did crash Congress back in June and showed up in their lobbies. [Sen. Bernie] Sanders’ CoS brushed us off back into the hall in front of the press corps. We talked to several members on both sides and staff from many others. We did run into Jeff Miller in the hallway and he was gracious enough to sit with Montel for 45 minutes. While we may not agree with him on everything, Miller is a quality human being who truly cares about Veterans.”
Apart from Montel, Soledad O’Brien (CNN, CEO of Starfish Media Group) will unveil her new doc, “The War Comes Home,” which, according to a release, “follows the journeys of two soldiers who return home and the personal battles they must face to recover from the emotional effects of war.”
The speaker roster is as follows:
· Rep. Jeff Miller, (R-FL), Chairman of House Committee on Veterans Affairs
· Sen. John Walsh, (D-Mont.)
· Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, (D-Hawaii)
· Rep. Brad Wenstrup, (R-Ohio)
· Phillip Carter, Senior Fellow, Counsel and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program, Center for a New American Society
· Dr. William Nash, Psychiatrist, Quantico
· Former Rep. Patrick Murphy, MSNBC Host of “Taking the Hill”
· Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
· Tom Tarantino, Chief Policy Officer, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
· Joseph Kernan, Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy, Ret.; Chairman, NS2 Serves; Vice President, Business Development, SAP National Security Services
· Mark Testoni, President, NS2 Serves; President and Chief Executive, SAP National Security Services
· Zach Iscol, CEO, HirePurpose
· Mike Monroe, Team Rubicon
· David Wood, senior military correspondent, HuffPost
· Leo Shane, reporter, Military Times
For a hint of what you may hear if you go to Wednesday’s event, Franks, who appears to have cleaned up his spelling, shared the following statement on his boss’s behalf…
Statement of Jonathan Franks on behalf of Montel Williams:
“It unfortunately appears likely that Congress will not reach agreement on legislation aimed at reforming the Veteran’s Administration prior to the August recess. Mr. Williams believes it is axiomatic that the responsibility of caring for those who served is part and parcel of the cost of war, yet wonders about the wisdom of additional funding for the Veterans Administration while such serious accountability problems exist within the agency. That said, given that much of the Iraq and Afghan wars were financed with debt, it does ring hollow for some of the same Members who voted to pay for the wars with debt to now raise fiscal concerns regarding the care of those who fought them.”
“For weeks now, Mr. Williams has proposed an idea to serve as the basis for beginning to solve the problem. That idea, which went viral on social media under the hashtag #vasurge, has become the subject of a White House petition. While Mr. Williams does not claim to have all the answers, it seems that fixing the problems at the VA have become mired in election year politics with both sides dug into the blame game.”
“Mr. Williams believes veterans have already paid their due. It’s time to stop the partisan pandering and honor our end of the bargain. He calls on our elected leaders to take Veterans off the political battlefield. Veterans deserve nothing less of their Government.” “Tonight Mr. Williams will launch a new hashtag #United4VASolution.”
“How can a nation that won’t take care of the best of us care for the rest of us?”
Montel Williams is a decorated former Naval Officer having spent 22 years in the Marines and then the Navy. He is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.