President Obama, last Sunday I saw an brief article written by Natasha T. Metzler, Associated Press entitled, “Basketball Stars, Obama Play Hoops for Troops”. It was mentioned that this informal basketball game was played for the purpose of entertaining wounded US troops. According to the article, the assigned reporters were kept out of the gym and forced to wait in vans outside. Your Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, said that you “just wanted to play”.
I am sure that your intent was to convince all of us that you are simply a thoughtful man doing something special for our wounded warriors. I know you wanted us to believe that you didn’t want any attention for yourself, and you were simply suffering through the experience of playing ball with the legends of the game in an effort to provide some encouragement to our wounded warriors. I suppose that is why the first articles emerging on the internet kept us all in the dark with what must have been taking place inside the gym.
I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mr. President, but we are not buying one bit of this garbage! For starters, prior to the event, information was released by the media. Perhaps that is why the reporters were sitting outside the gym, in vans, awaiting a glimpse of what they hoped would turn into a big story. I’ve got a gut feeling that you made sure those reporters were sitting there that day.
You are a smart man, therefore you know we are always more interested in the forbidden. If it is even suggested that something must be kept secret, that makes all of us more curious and we certainly feel more compelled to find out every detail and then share the information. It’s just our human nature.
President Obama, if you really wanted to keep this event out of the press, you could have easily done that. You are the President of the United States of America! You are protected by the Secret Service. If you want to leave the White House for another destination and you want your activity to be kept under wraps, you have the power to make sure that effort is accomplished. In fact, I’m sure it happens countless times each day. Sir, as a typical American citizen, I have no idea what you are doing with your time unless YOU decide to make it known to all of us.
It is my belief that you wanted all of us to know that you played this informal game of basketball with more than a dozen current and former basketball pros. It is my belief that you wanted us to know that greats such as Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Grant Hill, Shane Battier, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, and Maya Moore were present. Why do I believe this to be true? Because I heard about it, I read about it, and I have been inundated all week long with articles, pictures, and video footage of the event.
Sure, the reporters were made to wait outside, but you allowed them to film the unfolding events as you left the gym. You know that you could have kept them completely away from the area. After all, you are the President of the United States of America. I’m not sure if you and your Secret Service agents noticed, but somebody was in the gym with a camera. There’s at least one photo circulating online to prove it.
Curiosity got the best of me so I did a Google search with the key words “Obama, basketball, wounded warriors” and got 32,100 results. I’ll admit I didn’t click on every single link, but I did notice as I clicked through many of the pages that each link was making mention of your informal game, played last weekend, that was supposed to be under the radar.
President Obama, this is the last straw! It is my belief that you exploited these wounded troops just so you could play ball with some NBA stars. You took advantage of your powerful position and played on the heart strings of our basketball legends and the American people. You figured out a way to make your childhood dream come true and you packaged it as an opportunity to appear as a Commander in Chief genuinely concerned for his wounded.
I’m sure the wounded troops carefully selected to attend the event last weekend were thrilled at the opportunity. I’m sure that they enjoyed their afternoon and went home with a few photos and autographs to place in their memory albums. In all honesty, Mr. President, I have to ask you this. What did you really do to enhance the quality of these lives? And what about the others? There are thousands of wounded warriors who did not get a chance to attend your well-orchestrated event. How did you decide who was chosen?
Frankly, I’m sick of hearing how you and your wife are such an amazing support to our military families and our wounded warriors. Back on May 25, 2010, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden hosted a meeting with military leaders to discuss ways to build a lasting national commitment to support and engage military families. Michelle spoke to thousands at Camp Pendleton on June 14, 2010. She told Marines, and their family members, that her defining mission as First Lady was to help the rest of our country better understand and appreciate the incredible service demonstrated by these military families.
I continue to hear stories of your wife’s speaking engagements, but what exactly is she doing to support the families? Is she simply speaking out to be sure we ‘understand and appreciate’ the sacrifice being made by our military families? While this is important, Sir, it’s just not enough. In order to ensure that our troops know they are appreciated, we need to stop ‘talking the talk’ and start ‘walking the walk.’
Is the mission of Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden simply to get the rest of us to support the military families while they coach from the sidelines? Many of us are already working tirelessly to support our troops, and have been doing so for years. Frankly, we are all waiting to see the First and Second Lady put words into action! The only evidence I can see at this point is a host of barbecues, speeches, and photo ops for these women that exploit wounded troops. Case in point: the Bidens hosted a barbecue for Wounded Warriors back in May. Mrs. Biden also visited Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, Camp Lejeune in October 2009, where she ate Carolina barbecue with specially chosen wounded Marines. Why, you even hosted a barbecue last Sunday after the informal, low-key basketball game, and fortunately, Michelle had just returned home from her vacation in Spain so she was able to join you.
You have taken a lot of credit lately for supporting our troops and veterans suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You signed H.R. 2647, The Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, into law in October, 2009. This legislation included a key provision based on Congressman Walter Jones’ bill H.R. 1701, the PTSD/TBI Guaranteed Review for Heroes Act. While you do have the power to veto, and we are all very grateful you did not exercise this option, frankly, Sir, you just signed your name on the dotted line.
The recent ruling which has made it easier for disabled veterans to quality for benefits and services for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through the Veteran’s Administration has also taken place under your watch, however, I’m fairly confident that it was not your blood, sweat, and tears that made that happen.
Earlier this month, you spoke to our Disabled American Veterans. You told our veterans that they would be cared for when they returned home. You said it was our ‘sacred trust’ and a ‘moral obligation’. You promised more treatment centers, case managers, and the best care available for our wounded.
You promised unprecedented resources to treat this war’s signature wounds - Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and even went as far as to say these words: “.....I want to say to anyone who is struggling - do not suffer in silence. It’s not a sign of weakness to reach out for support; it is a sign of strength. Your country needs you and we are here to help you stand tall again.”
How exactly are you demonstrating this new era of support? How do you implement change to ensure that these warriors are treated in such a way that their efforts to reach out for support are regarded as signs of strength? Have you ever taken a serious look at the true effects of the stigma that permeates the ranks of our military? Has it ever occurred to you that the stigma is far more damaging to a soldier than the effects of TBI and PTSD? If this concept has you scratching your head, then you are not nearly as well informed as you need to be, Sir.
Is your only real strategy to simply play a pick up game of hoops on a Sunday afternoon and invite these soldiers to watch? Not only have you exploited them to live out your childhood dream, but you have just rubbed it in their faces that, in many cases, these troops are no longer able to play a game of basket ball themselves. I’m sure the opportunity to have met our basketball legends will always bring a smile to the faces of the chosen few who attended your birthday party last week; but Mr. President, how will that help these men find work, obtain necessary medical services, and put the broken pieces of their lives back together?
When you celebrate your next birthday, Mr. President, instead of exploiting our wounded warriors so you can have your cake and eat it too, I suggest you go look under the nearest bridge and consider what you can do for the homeless veterans who are waiting to receive some real help.