During his visit to Fort Stewart Friday, President Barack Obama is expected to sign an executive order that addresses aggressive and deceptive targeting of service members, veterans and spouses by educational institutions.
Senior administration officials announced the order during a press call Thursday evening, providing the first public indication of what the president plans to address during the invitation-only event.
Information for soldiers and family members attending the event was sent through chains of command and family readiness groups, according to posts on the 3rd Infantry Division Facebook page.
Tickets also were allocated to the following veterans’ organizations: Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 789, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 46, Sun City Veterans Association of Bluffton, Hinesville American Legion Post No. 168 and Military Order of World Wars Savannah Chapter.
During the state of Hinesville address on Thursday, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said he will have two minutes to speak with the president.
“Believe me, since the word got out that he was coming, I’ve gained a lot of new friends,” Thomas joked. “I’ve lost a lot of friends, because I don’t have any tickets.”
With his time, Thomas said he will tell the president about Hinesville’s growth and military support.
“I’m going to tell him about Hinesville and how we take care of our soldiers, their families — and, more importantly, this is an education speech for him — so how we in the city support education of soldiers, families and dependents,” Thomas said.
“It’s good for the city. It’s something that we can be proud of, because he doesn’t come to every place,” Thomas added.
Thomas said he also will ask Obama to consider making a campaign stop near the area so civilians can get a chance to see him in person.
As for whether some see the appearance as a campaign maneuver, Liberty County Republican Chairman John Wood said the visit seems like official business, though he added that “regardless if something is political or not, every action — especially with an incumbent— is going to be perceived as political.”
Georgia Republican Party Veterans Outreach Chairman Col. (Ret.) Larry Mrozinski released a statement criticizing the visit.
“At a time when nearly 900,000 veterans are awaiting answers on their disability claims, countless troops are facing layoff due to the president’s indefensible military cuts and the veterans’ unemployment rate is in double digits — with women faring even worse — the commander-in-chief has been anything but an advocate for our service members and veterans over the past three years. Now more than ever, our veterans are subject to the same empty rhetoric from the Obama administration, only to see something totally different when the promises to our veterans are called due,” Mrozinski said.
“It is ever-more clear to veterans across America that Barack Obama considers his role as campaigner-in-chief far superior to that of commander-in-chief. This is an election year, however, and our military can expect to see plenty of him now. Simply put, our veterans, active service members and the families that support them deserve far better than to be relegated to being convenient campaign backdrops.”
But Wood said the role that Fort Stewart plays in the nation’s defense certainly warrants a visit from the commander-in-chief.
“Anytime a current or past president comes to military post, it is certainly an honor to that post,” Wood said. “With that said, though, I believe that this administration has not done all it can for the military. I do not believe that the defense department is at the top of their list, and that is apparent in the new budget with the massive cuts to the military. There also is no clear exit strategy in Afghanistan, and the Middle East grows increasingly dangerous daily.”
Some social network users had more negative remarks about Obama’s visit.
Women posting to an Army Wives of Fort Stewart discussion on Facebook complained about logistics affecting their husbands’ ability to get home and their own ability to travel on and off post.
Some others got political with their messages.
“Doesn’t seem like any of us have much respect for him …,” one poster said. “We have a better chance letting my 8-month-old running the country.”
“I’m sure he’s coming to try and win votes and to see what other ‘military’ cuts he can make to our families,” another wrote.
One poster had a more supportive message.
“He might not be my most-favorite person, but I still have respect for him taking on the job of commander-in-chief and president — it isn’t easy, especially in this economy and with all the debt we are in,” the message said.
Wood said even those who may not feel supported by the president’s policies can benefit from the event.
“I do hope that as military families meet with the president that they ask the hard questions of the future role of the military and that the president answers their questions instead of answering in generalities,” Wood said.