To: Governor Tony Evers

Scott Walker: Veterans deserve an apology

Gov. Walker, when you compared peaceful protestors to radical terrorists, you disrespected the service and sacrifice of the men and women who serve in our armed forces, and you insulted the citizens of Wisconsin who stood up to take part in our democracy.

As a veteran of the Iraq War and one of those protestors, I am asking you to publicly apologize for your callous and dishonorable remarks.

Why is this important?

On February 26, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was asked a question at a conservative conference about how he would combat ISIS, the radical terrorist organization murdering innocent people in the Middle East. In his response, Gov. Walker said, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

In one sentence, Gov. Walker mocked the war experiences of every Iraq veteran by comparing the terrorists we fought in Iraq to our families and neighbors here at home.

I served a tour of duty with Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, in Iraq’s Anbar province in 2004. Many of the places where my unit served are now controlled by ISIS, including areas around Forward Operating Base Givens in Trebil, the Haditha Dam, and the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq compound near Fallujah.

I was also one of thousands in the state Capitol in Madison in 2011, protesting against Act 10’s attacks on working people in Wisconsin.

I grew up in the Driftless Area on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border. My dad was a schoolteacher and a volunteer firefighter. My stepmom was (and still is) a postal worker. Both of them were union members, and I saw what being in a union meant for them.

When my dad faced a serious health problem, his union stood beside him and made sure he didn’t have to face the challenges on his own. I’ll always remember that.

So when Gov. Walker started pushing Act 10—the law that stripped public employees in Wisconsin of their collective bargaining rights—I knew I needed to stand up.

I remember standing in the Capitol, chanting and singing with thousands of others, trying to get the attention of a governor who didn’t have the courage to meet with us. Those of us protesting in the Capitol felt a common sense of purpose. Around me, I saw teachers and firefighters—people just like my dad. I saw nurses and snowplow drivers and people who work to make their communities better.

That year, Gov. Walker called us thugs. His words stung: real thugs were the insurgents we fought in Iraq. But they didn’t sting anywhere near as much as his comparing how he ignored his fellow Wisconsinites to fighting ISIS.

Today, I’m proud to be a member of AFT Local 3220, the Teaching Assistants’ Association at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my alma mater. After I came home from Iraq, I earned my bachelor’s at UW-Madison. I am continuing my education in graduate school, studying military history with a focus on civil-military relations, veterans and education. I also serve undergraduates as a full-time academic adviser.

As an academic adviser, I help students identify and develop the tools they need to pursue their dreams. Students can count on my support at any stage of their academic career: encouraging their academic exploration; helping them pick the right major; assisting when they plan their classes for a semester studying abroad, or making sure they are on track to graduate so they can walk with their class and celebrate with their families. And I help them handle more serious issues, like what to do if an emergency requires time away from school. I also volunteer to advise a student organization that focuses on public service, because I want to support students who give back to their community.

Gov. Walker thinks that—because he ignored me and thousands of people like me—he’s qualified to face the threat of ISIS. But by comparing teachers, firefighters, nurses, custodians and other public workers to terrorists, Scott Walker insults those of us who have actually fought terrorism, and those of us who speak up for ourselves and our communities at home.

Gov. Walker, veterans and service members who risked their lives to fight terrorism deserve better than that. Americans who speak up for their rights deserve better than that. Please, Gov. Walker, show some courage: publicly take ownership of your disrespectful comments and apologize.

William Schuth