Yes, I share the pain; I am outraged! I am a military father after all and I would be extremely upset if my son were in the same unfair circumstances as Capt. Chris Van Meter, the Manteca hero recently mentioned in the Manteca Bulletin. So I want to extend my most sincere gratitude to him for his service to our country and to let him know he is not alone; we Mantecans and the entire country is behind him.
But, it wasn’t the Department of Defense (DoD) or the Obama Administration who dropped the ball on our Califorrnisa veterans. No, it was Congress. It was Representative Jeff Denham to be exact, and by his admission, whether he likes it or not.
I woke up Friday morning to a report well written by Glenn Kahl at the Manteca Bulletin “Defending Denham.” In his article, Glenn reports on the visit to Jeff Denham for Congress campaign headquarters by House Speaker Paul Ryan; a desperate attempt by Congressman Denham to save his reelection.
On Wednesday, Oct 26, Kahl in his article “Uncle Sam Giveth…” reported Congressman Denham’s outrage at theT DoD for coming after our guard members for repayment of bonuses received for reenlisting. We all agree with Denham, but we should all be more outraged that in 2014 Denham and the GOP leadership in Congress could have prevented this fiasco, but they chose not to act.
“It is absolutely wrong that any of the guardsmen or guardswomen who reenlisted should be obligated to repay,” Congressman John Garamendi stated to me. “but if there is clear evidence of fraud, then the Department of Defense should pursue prosecution,” he added. I asked Congressman Garamendi if he was aware that the CA National Guard proposed legislation in 2014 to extend a waiver to expedite and complete its investigation into this matter. “Every year,” he said “the CA National Guard submits to Congress a list of items needed to perform. I do remember seeing a request for a waiver, but nothing came through”. Why, I asked, “because the Conference Committee which is controlled by Republicans did not prioritize or thought it was not important to act on.” Additionally, Congressman Garamendi does not share Congressman Denham’s recollection that “Congress was assured of this in 2014, making legislation unnecessary.” “That never happened,” he said. “If it had come to committee, we would have acted,” concluded the Congressman.
Earlier in the day, I have spoken with Denham’s Press Secretary Jessica McFall who shared with me what Mr. Denham stated in his email to his constituency on Oct. 28, and where Mr. Garamendi finds disagreement. Additionally, DoD Spokesperson Laura Ochoa does not have any information about the alleged contact between Congressman Denham and DoD about this matter back in 2014. Furthermore, Captain William Martin with the CA National Guard confirmed to me that Congress was aware of the urgency of getting a waiver for its members, but opted not to introduce legislation.
Congressman Denham states that “Those responsible for illegal actions should be held accountable.” But I remind the Congressman that he already knew that! Many of the people involved in this fiasco have been prosecuted. CA Adjutant General Baldwin made sure that the civilian in charge of the bonuses got 30 months in federal prison, and that “a Brigadier General and two Colonels were also punished and separated from the U.S. Armed Forces.” To allow Congressman Denham to continue his “good fishing in troubled waters” is beyond me. I find this distortion of facts offensive to our men and women in uniform serving our National Guard or in other of our military branches. I can understand his disappointment, but he had the opportunity to do something about it, but he looked the other way. By his admission via email and his Press Secretary conversation with me, I find Congressman Denham liable to all the honest and dedicated CA guards members. He must answer to them, stand on his own and apologize to them. But in all honesty, it is too late!
What I know about our Constitution is that the Legislative Power or Congress does not need a department of the Executive Branch or even the President to tell it what to do or how to legislate. Denham and his GOP leadership in the House of Representatives chose not to act fairly and expeditiously on behalf of our CA Veterans, but instead they thought to wait out this problem hoping it would go away. Because if they had done something about it in 2014, we would have known then that it was during the GOP Bush 43 presidency that all this fiasco and fraudulent treatment of our men and women in uniform at the CA National Guard took place. Well, Mr. Denham, it backfired, and as usual you misrepresent the facts in hopes that we, the People, won’t know any better. Like your candidate, Trump would say, “wrong.”
But I do have some good news to end this article. Congressman John Garamendi, a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, informed that his office is currently working on legislation to be introduced to deal with this problem and provide a procedure to establish a national waiver program for all guard members who acted in good faith. In his press release issued Oct. 26, the Congressman says that “The National Defense Authorization Act, likely to be voted on during the lame duck session after the November election, remains a powerful and important legislative vehicle to ensure we’re being proactive in protecting Guardsmen.”
Congressman Garamendi has great intentions, but it will up to us in this district to send to Congress a Representative who will work with him. It will take someone who cares and does not fish in troubled waters, and that’s not Jeff Denham.
Al Moncada was a lifelong Republican until recently. He is the former Chairman of Republican National Hispanic Assembly in Los Angeles and a former CA Republican Delegate. He has served as Hispanic Advisor for several campaigns in recent years including, CA Lungren for Governor, Bush/Cheney 2000, and Jeb Bush 2016. Mr. Moncada was a Hispanic Advisor to many local Republican Leaders including former CA GOP Assembly Leader Kristin Olsen and CA CRP Chairman Jim Brulte. He has written many articles on immigration reform, and he has called for the Republican Party to be inclusive, not divisive.