Senate Democrats

President Bush in Michigan

Today, President Bush returns to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to discuss the war on terror. In 2003, President Bush went there to make the claim that Iraq and al-Qaeda were working together, a claim we now know to be false. While President Bush may still call Iraq the “central front in the war on terror,” the truth is that the President’s failed policies in Iraq are making America less safe. Michigan service men and women are bearing the brunt of Bush’s “stay the course” strategy, and Michigan’s communities are paying for Bush’s inflexible policy of surging our troops into the midst of an Iraqi civil war. The President should drop his threat to veto a bill that will provide the troops the funding they need and the change of course they deserve.

chart: Bush in Michigan

Families forced to come to terms with newly announced tour of duty extensions. “Sharon Konvicka, whose husband, 36-year-old Sgt. Michael Konvicka of Flint, Mich., deployed in January with the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Ga., said she was not surprised. ‘None of us really expected them home in a year because of the situation that was going on,’ Sharon Konvicka said Wednesday. ‘Don’t get me wrong. I can imagine a lot of spouses are probably a bit disappointed they’re loved ones aren’t returning in a year. But that’s just the life.'” (AP, 4/12/07)

Michigan families are shattered by the war. “At 25, Stephanie Singleton of Muskegon is starting life over. A war widow. On Easter Sunday, her husband — U.S. Army Sgt. Todd A. Singleton, 24 — died of wounds suffered when his unit was ambushed outside Baghdad, Iraq, by enemy forces using explosives and small arms fire… As Stephanie Singleton speaks, her long brown hair falls into her face, making her look even more like a teenager — not a woman who is a casualty of war. ‘He was supposed to be coming home on (two weeks leave) in a couple weeks,’ she says. ‘This was supposed to be his last mission before coming home.’ Her husband was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Calvary Division at Fort Hood, Texas. He was halfway through his second 14-month tour of duty in Iraq.” (Muskegon Chronicle, 4/12/07)

Michigan lives cut short by the President’s Iraq plan. “A Midland soldier was the third Michigan serviceman since Thursday to die in Iraq. Army Pfc. Levi K. Hoover, 23, and three other members of his 82nd Airborne Division unit died Saturday in a roadside bomb explosion in Zaganiyah, the military said Tuesday. His mother, Belinda Brewster, said she had talked with Hoover two days before his death. He described a deadly roadside bomb explosion. ‘I think he was worried,’ Brewster said. ‘It was a dangerous place to be.’ Hoover was engaged to be married and was planning to become a police officer.” (Grand Rapids Press, 4/11/07)

The Michigan National Guard is under-equipped. “Michigan’s Army National Guard units have only about 40 percent of their assigned equipment, reflecting nationwide equipment shortages the country’s top National Guard officer has called ‘unacceptable.’ The shortages of trucks, helicopters and other equipment – a result of the strains of the Iraq war – mean Guard units are less prepared to respond to state disasters. ‘We are now in a degraded state back here at home,’ said Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, the National Guard’s top officer. ‘The ability for the National Guard to respond to natural disasters and to perhaps terrorist weapons-of-mass-destruction events that may come to our homeland is at risk because we are significantly under equipped.'” (Detroit News, 3/31/07)

President Bush’s escalation is hurting Michigan’s readiness. “In Michigan, the state’s top Guard officer, Maj. Gen. Thomas Cutler, said the state has about 42 percent of its authorized equipment. Cutler said he is confident his units can handle anything similar to the disasters the state has faced in recent decades. But he admitted that a major event — a terrorist attack in Metro Detroit, for example — would strain the Guard’s ability to respond, though Michigan could get help from nearby states.” (Detroit News, 3/31/07)

Michigan parents are working to make sure soldiers aren’t forgotten. “It’s been more than three years and 100 funerals since John “Skip” Bushart buried his 22-year-old son, one of Michigan’s first casualties in the Iraq war. As the nation prepares to mark the fourth anniversary of the war on Monday,? the Waterford Township father is on a mission. He and friend John Dearing, whose son also died in Iraq, vow to continue attending the funerals of Michigan sons and daughters who die as a result of the war, and to present their families with flags. And they’re working to have monuments erected in the hometown of every fallen Michiganian.” (Detroit News, 3/16/07)

“This is the first time we’ve lowered the flag for one of our own sons.” “U.S. Army Pfc. Justin Paton, 24, died Saturday while on duty in the war zone, 40 miles north of Baghdad. His parents are Donald and Shelley Paton of Alanson, although they live in Cheboygan County, about halfway between Alanson and Indian River. He wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and he believed in what he was doing in Iraq…Paton corresponded with third-grade students at his former school, his nephew’s class. Those children were somber on Monday, Killingbeck said. ‘They don’t really understand what happened,’ he said. ‘This is the first time we’ve lowered the flag for one of our own sons.'” (Traverse City Record-Eagle, 2/20/07)