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Operation Free tour brings message to the Valley

November 5, 2009
By J.T. Whitehouse
The Veterans for American Power tour made a stop at the Canfield Fairgrounds recently to spread their message of environmental concerns to the Valley. The tour, called Operation Free, consisted of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who say they are tired of America being a slave to foreign oil concerns.

“If we were cut off tomorrow of foreign oil, we wouldn’t have enough to defend our country,” said Ohio 16th District Rep. John Boccieri.

Boccieri was on hand to greet the big blue Operation Free bus as it rolled into the Canfield Fairgrounds on Oct. 20. He gave a brief introduction of what the tour was all about, stating that the speakers on the tour have all served in Iraq and Afghanistan and have seen first hand the ills of the big oil barons.

The main focus of the tour was to persuade the country to take action to decrease and eliminate the need for foreign oil while moving towards solving the climate problems that are facing North America.

One of the main concerns focused on global climate change. According to Boccieri, climate change is being viewed as a serious threat by the military.

“Climate change has been elevated to a national concern,” he said. “That is because the military looks 20 years down the line while politicians are only looking to the next election.”

Climate change comes into the picture as a threat as it can fuel a breeding ground for unrest. The message the veterans presented was that when areas are devastated by drought, floods and major storm damage, unrest can take root and fuel the growth of terrorism.

According to Marine veteran Alex Cornell du Houx, who is currently serving his first term in Maine’s House of Representatives, the military and the CIA have already established climate change departments to monitor the situation. He said that alone should tell people that climate change can be a national security threat.

“The CIA has established a center on climate change,” Cornell du Houx said. “They know it is a factor that could harm our security in the future.”

Although the tour was sending the message that climate change is a serious threat, the veterans also offered a positive message by backing alternative energy such as wind and solar power.

“The steel industry is seeing an increase due to wind turbine construction,” Cornell du Houx said.

Attending the tour stop in Canfield was U.S. Steelworkers union member George Calko of Warren. He was glad to hear positive news for his industry.

“I see this as a huge potential to create jobs,” he said. “We can reduce dependency on foreign oil and reinvent the American manufacturing base, In doing so, we can build wealth through sustainable jobs, create health through a cleaner environment, reduce the impact on the planet and provide a future for generations to come.”

George Pappas of Boardman also attended the Canfield tour stop. He said he wanted more information on a subject that he is concerned about.

“I’ve been following the issue from the environmental impact,” he said. “I came out to get information and the tour’s point of view. It’s an interest that I have been following.”

The tour began in Pine Bluff, Ariz., on Oct. 12 with a southern route and in Missoula, Mont., with a northern route. The northern route made its final stop on Oct. 24 in Maine and the southern finished in Tampa, the following day.

Cornell du Houx said the reliance on foreign oil causes problems for the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said that is one of the reasons the veterans are getting behind this issue.

“Our dependence on oil forces our commanders to use troops for securing the convoys of fuel instead of using those same troops for counterinsurgency missions,” he said. “It stretches our forces and results in higher casualties.”

Article Photos

Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier

George Pappas of Boardman and George Calko of Warren discuss climate issues prior to the arrival of the Operation Free bus at the Canfield Fairgrounds.



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