American Legion director hears presidential candidates at convention |

American Legion director hears presidential candidates at convention

Collin Smith

Gar Williams, American Legion Department of Colorado director, stands inside Post No. 62 in Craig. After hearing both presidential candidates speak during the American Legion National Convention Aug. 28 in Phoenix, he said there is more to lose in the Nov. 4 presidential election than in any election in recent memory.

Gar Williams, American Legion Department of Colorado director, sees four important issues at stake in the coming presidential election: Operation Iraqi Freedom, energy development, gun control and veteran’s affairs.

He and his wife, Luann, were hoping to hear presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speak about those issues in particular while attending the Aug. 28 American Legion National Convention in Phoenix.

Both candidates appeared there, but the couple left disappointed with one.

“All (Obama) talked about was the history of the American Legion,” Luann said. “He didn’t tell us his goals, his plans, nothing.”

She said it was the kind of political appearance, self-serving and uninformative the couple disdains.

“It didn’t affect us in the least,” Luann said. “We’re still going to vote for McCain.”

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The couple is not bound to the Republican ticket, they added. Luann said she and Gar voted for U.S. Rep. John Salazar and U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, both Colorado democrats, because of their support for veteran needs, such as the tele-health clinic in Craig.

“The lack of health care for veterans in Northwest Colorado is what got me involved in the American Legion at the state level,” Gar said. “There are ‘D’s’, there are ‘R’s’, there are reds and blues, and there are ‘V’s.’

“‘V’s’ are veterans. I vote for what’s best for veterans.”

In this year’s presidential race, Gar and Luann think McCain is best for veterans.

McCain “covered the span pretty well” at the American Legion Convention, Gar said. “He said Iraq will be a phased pullout as different provinces are able and willing to take over their governments for themselves. He said he will appoint a secretary of veteran’s affairs that will listen to veterans. It was very positive.”

Gar added that although the war on terror is a contentious political issue, that does not mean soldiers should bear people’s resentment.

“The people of the United States committed an unconscionable act at the conclusion of the Vietnam War, in that they took out their frustration and hatred of the politicians on the soldiers,” Gar said.

The economy is central to the success of this country, as well, Gar said.

“Oil prices are killing the economy all over,” he said. “Oil is a short-term answer to this problem, oil and coal. Long-term is natural gas and renewable resources. We have got to use the resources we have here, but that’s never going to happen overnight. In the short-term, we have to make use of oil and we can’t get away from that.”

The Williams couple said they believe there is more riding on this election for the country’s future than any other in recent memory.

“An awful lot riding on this one,” Luann said. “If the wrong person wins, if Obama wins, we may have to move to Canada.”

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or