May 26th, 2008
01:00 PM ET
10 years ago

McCain focuses on GI Bill, Iraq on Memorial Day

John McCain said veterans deserve better treatment.

John McCain said veterans deserve better treatment.

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (CNN) – John McCain spent Memorial Day focusing on his own military history, the war in Iraq and the debate over veterans’ benefits.

“The sacrifices made by veterans deserve to be memorialized in something more lasting than marble or bronze or in the fleeting effect of a politician's speeches,” McCain told veterans and their families gathered under a cloudless sky at the New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial. “Your valor and devotion to duty have earned your country's abiding concern for your welfare. And when our government forgets to honor our debts to you, it is a stain upon America's honor.”

The presumptive Republican nominee made no mention of Barack Obama. McCain drew fire from the Illinois senator last week for his opposition to a GI Bill proposed by fellow veteran Sen. Jim Webb. The measure passed the Senate last week.

In a tersely worded statement last week, McCain responded, “I take a backseat to no one in my affection, respect and devotion to veterans. And I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did.”

On Monday, McCain said again that he felt Webb’s bill unfairly provides the same benefits to troops who had only served one tour of duty as it did to those who serve longer.

McCain, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Richard Burr, has proposed veterans’ benefits legislation that works on a sliding scale. The plan would provide incentives for the enlisted - especially noncommissioned officers - to remain longer in a military that has struggled under the strain of two simultaneous conflicts, in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

“It would be easier politically for me to have joined Sen. Webb in offering his legislation,” McCain said Monday, adding later that “I intend to deserve the honor [of the presidency] if I am fortunate to receive it, even if it means I must take politically unpopular positions at times and disagree with people for whom I have the highest respect and affection.”

McCain closed his remarks saying he recognizes the country is growing tired of the war and the mistakes that were made, “But we cannot react to those mistakes by embracing a course of action that will be an even greater mistake, a mistake of colossal historical proportions.”

“We must give General Petraeus and the Americans he has the honor to command adequate time to salvage from the wreckage of our past mistakes a measure of stability for Iraq and the Middle East, and a more secure future for the American people,” said McCain.

McCain attends a fundraiser in Albuquerque Monday afternoon before flying to Colorado, where he will deliver a speech on foreign policy Tuesday morning.

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Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. Elizabeth, NC

    Proud Army US Combat Veteran, you have just said it as it should be said. Should there any difference in the time one died during this god forsaken war or should there be a difference in injuries etc. This McCain is such an overaged moron. He wants the good American citizens to send their loved ones to fight a baseless war which he sanctioned and is refusing to compensate appropriately. Of course this is the Republican agenda. And this is the one disgruntled Hillary supporters are purporting to vote for in November. I'll burn my vote than vote Republican.

    May 26, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. Kathy

    My question to the “under 30 generation” who for the first time in their lives “found their voice”… in Obama…..where have you been? Why not until now have you not exercised your right to vote? You place your faith in a man who has not been tested, pocesses little record of accomplishment and little to no experience in international or economic matters. For shame!

    Life to you folks seems rather simple. I suppose in your minds, Obama offers a sense of entitlement - your time has come. The simple fact is that if you look past his rhetoric there is little substance. You buy into his chant of “change..yes we can” with little thought as to the complexities involved in bringing about change. Some of you worship him like he is a “messiah”, here to save us from ourselves. He may in fact be anointed the nominee, and you like him, will think nothing can stop you. The simple and relevant truth is……. One can fool some of the people some of the time…but not all the people…. all the time.

    McCain may represent a party for which I may not find a lot of common ground however, I respect his honor, integrity and sacrifice to our country, the scars of which he still bears as a testament to his courage…. And I will place my hope for change in him. He has earned my respect and most likely my vote and the votes of millions of others who feel the same way.

    For the sake of our country and that of our future….thank god there are more of us than you, and we will not allow this fantasy to continue past Nov. DNC party chairs and uncommitted superdelgates… either stop this false prophet now….or we will do so with our votes come Nov.

    May 26, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  3. Jaun

    Remember this?????
    Why would a President McCain vote to help Veterns when a Senator McCain would not?

    August 2001
    McCain votes against increasing the amount of cash available for veterans' medical care

    March 2004
    McCain votes against creating a reserve fund for veterans' medical care

    March 2006
    McCain votes against increasing veterans' medical services funding

    May 2006
    McCain votes against additional funding to the VA for health care facilities
    This from a man who has consistently voted AGAINST veteran benefits. Doublespeak from the "Straight talk express" that would make Hillary pale in comparison:

    – Voted AGAINST an amendment providing $20 billion to the VA’s medical facilities.

    – Voted AGAINST providing $430 million to the VA for outpatient care “and treatment for veterans,” one of only 13 senators to do so.

    – Voted AGAINST increasing VA funding by $1.5 billion by closing corporate loopholes.

    – Voted AGAINST increasing VA funding by $1.8 billion by ending “abusive tax loopholes.” [

    – Voted AGAINST a $650 million increase in veterans’ medical care funding. [8/1/01]

    Not ot mention his resistence against the recent "GI" bill.

    May 26, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  4. 60 YO white female , Springfield, VA

    Everytime I hear him give a speech it sounds like he is talking to a bunch of 5th graders.

    OBAMA 08 !

    May 26, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  5. CPO,USN(Ret)

    It's obvious McCain has forgotten Navy Core Values... Honor, Courage, Committment. Anyone running for POTUS should be committed to ensuring our Vets receive all they deserve. A college education is a small price to pay for those willing to put on a uniform and fight for the freedom and liberty we all enjoy.

    May 26, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  6. Mike in Calgary

    John: How many more of America's best, it's young American men and women, must die in Iraq, while the War on Terror in Afghanistan is dealt with as a side issue. How many Americans needing health care, safe bridges and better schools will be ignored because John McCain and Hillary Clinton did not heed the Intelligence Report on their desk and voted to initiate the War in Iraq. Over 4,080 (and counting) Americans killed in Iraq because McCain and Clinton did not do their HOMEWORK.

    SOME JUDGMENT EH! Tells you a lot about McCain's and Clinton's priorities! Done wonders for the American economy too and the US dollar. It's even starting to make the Canadian Dollar worth hanging onto (except your gasoline is 25-30 percent cheaper than our gas!

    PS. Canadian have the highest casualty and mortality rates in Afghanistan over the last 3 years – makes foreigners (including Canadians) appreciate the heavy lifting that the American people have been doing for years. We take a different approach to CUBA and IRAQ than does the US government – maybe there is some wisdom to Obama's approach to foreign affairs regarding Cuba, Iraq and the judicious use of America's resources and servicemen and women.

    "Just talk" Clinton and McCain have said to castigate Obama,as if words are of no effect. Then Clinton and McCain get all up in arms because he proposes talks with your enemies.

    I'm sure that the families of most Americans who are remembered today would hope that there was a little more "talk" and a little more Homework done by the new Commander in Chief before initiating the next foreign war.


    May 26, 2008 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  7. gman

    Here's a great Obama Administration:

    Pres – Obama

    VP – Kathleen Sebelius

    AG – John Edwards

    Sec State – Bill Richardson

    Sec Defense – Jim Webb

    May 26, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  8. Cory Miller

    I think Senator McCain fails to realizes is that it doesn't take 22 years in the the military to shatter a soldier's mind and body. 6 months in Iraq, or an IED, can do that quite easily. I would hate to see a young soldier coming back from Iraq being denied the benefits they need because someone who did 20 years pushing paper had more years then they did.

    May 26, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  9. Mike in Calgary

    4,080 young Americans killed in Iraq, AND COUNTING. "JUST TALK" sounds a lot better than "JUST WAR". Too bad John McCain and Hillary Clinton ignored the Intelligence Report as "JUST WORDS" and instead initiated the War In Iraq that has cost a Trillion Dollars, 27,000 casualties and 4,080 Americas killed AND COUNTING.

    "JUST WORDS" and "JUST TALK" is starting to look pretty good after one walks through Arlington Cemetery and by the Viet Nam Memorial Wall. You have to pick you battles, both political and military. One presidential candidate has shown the discernment to know when to talk and when to fight!


    May 26, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. sdn

    Please retire Sen. McCain. Your policies are selfish and unwanted. No McSame!

    Thank all the troops for serving...every last one. You deserve every benefit that this country has to offer. No matter who you are or when you served , I support you. You make make me very proud.

    OBAMA 08 & 12

    May 26, 2008 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  11. FreshAir

    That's right, McCain doesn't take the back seat, that is reserved for the troops.

    May 26, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  12. Clinton Supporter

    You're looking better every day, John.

    May 26, 2008 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  13. Allen G.

    McCain is forgeting that the G.I. Bill he had only required you to be HONERABLE DISCHARGED.But its just like McCain not to want to do anything for us Americans

    May 26, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  14. Glad to be an Independent

    McCain is wrong on this issue. You can give service men and women generous benefits even during their first tour of duty. The benefits after the first tour of duty can be even more generous. There can still be a difference. Those individuals that serve even longer should be eligible for an additional set of benefits. We owe that to our military personnel whether they serve one tour of duty or more because they protect our freedom everyday.

    May 26, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  15. Donald from SC

    I find it very interesting that the one person who claims special knowledge of the US military tries his best to destroy it. Has Senator McCain thought that perhaps providing a better carrot at the end of a military member's tour or enlistment might encourage more folks to sign up or stay in? Has he thought for once that maybe our citizens need more than just honor to serve your country when we have leaders willing to send our young people into voluntary wars? If Senator McCain truly wants to maintain a strong military, then why doesn't he want to stop a purposeless war? Has anyone noticed that the military leaders (active or retired) don't support this nut?

    I served in the military; and I rather see half of our military members separate from the military than have another American die in Iraq for no purpose at all. I am not against our country fighting wars. I am against throwing the lives of our people away for no purpose at all. If we are in Iraq for the purpose of preserving our interests in the oil of that region, then just go outside and realize that we FAILED and we already LOST the war. Senator McCain Bring our people home.

    May 26, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  16. Dylan

    "And when our government forgets to honor our debts to you, it is a stain upon America's honor.” mean, like, say... NOT SUPPORTING THE GI BILL???

    You are a disgrace, McSame. Any "Democrat" that would even dream of voting for this fraud needs to stop pouting for a second and flex their brain muscles.

    May 26, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  17. independent Voter

    Hello, out there. These people are all volunteers, unlike the Viet Nam vets, who got nothing like what the Dems propose. They're there because they inaccurately judged that being in the military would be easier than going to high school.

    McCain rightly recognizes the mixed motives here and rewards the genuine volunteer, as opposed to the guy trying to get out of something.

    May 26, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  18. Ted van Tol

    5 supers for Obama!!
    It makes me so happy!
    Europe for Barack.

    Withe love from the Netherlands

    May 26, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  19. Donald from SC

    Actually Gman, I think Ron Paul would make the best Sec. of Defense. Why, because he would truly think before using military force against another government.

    May 26, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  20. Kathryn Irby - Metairie, LA

    Give it up, ole man!!!! We don't want four more years of Bush!!!

    May 26, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  21. McFeign

    Only one tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan? I guess that's like taking only one bullet or losing only one limb. It's a shame to see such a hero bent by the Republican attack machine into swift-boating the solidiers he claims to support to do damage control for a heinous vote.

    Also, we have a volunteer uniformed service in this country, and no one should be chided for not volunteering for it. Commend and honor the bravery and sacrifice of those who did, and remember that personal choice and freedom are the cornerstones of American philosophy that those soldiers fight for, but at which social conservatives are so quick to chip away.

    May 26, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  22. jonas

    what ever you do, do not vote for McCain. If you are voting for Hillary, you should vote for Obama if Hillary dont win the nomination, and NOT McCain, because Hillary and Obama have the same politic issues, and they are both democrats. This is americas last chanse to show the world that they still are a country that many people look up to and that they still are good for something. I personly love america, and I just dont want the world to hate america because of a stupid, republican president, like Bush and McCain God Bless America!

    Obama 08
    democrat in Norway

    May 26, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  23. Take the purple pill

    Wow thats pretty cold McCain. Of course people are suprised the loosed lipped pressumptive Rep. nominee is against helping vets. But for those of us with friends and family who have already fallen and continue to risk their lives in Iraq I am more so Outraged! Where the hell do you get off, honestly. And anyone who supports this man is truly a disgrace to our country. How sickening to hear him actually say god forbid one tour vets educating themselves is a problem. Get em young and dumb right? There was a time fighting for this country meant something I thought I was a little young to see that disappear. To be honest I wasn't planning to vote but between to retardation of Billary and the axis of evil McBush. Obama you better keep at least a third of those crazy promises cause we are really heading down hill fast when Americans actively vote for callous individuals like McCain.

    May 26, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  24. jonas

    get the troops put of Iraq!!! dont vote for McCain

    May 26, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  25. BIG ED

    McCain Was For The military Before He Was Against........McCain doesn't care about the troops

    May 26, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
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