I will have more to say about the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) Leadership Forum later, but there was one presentation that attempted to transcend the partisan politics that dominated the session. Major Dan Rooney is an F-16 fighter pilot and a Class A PGA golf professional. He established the Folds of Honor foundation to help the spouses and children of soldiers killed or disabled in service to the United States. Rooney observed that helping vets and families “is not a red issue or a blue issue. It is a red white and blue issue.”
This is true, but it is also true that in most of the blue dominated events I have attended in my life members of the military do not get much attention. The same cannot be said of the red-heavy NRA meeting. In addition to Rooney, General Leroy Sisco made an appearance at the NRA-ILA Forum on behalf of the Military Warriors Support Foundation that he founded. One thing the foundation does is to award mortgage and gift tax free homes to combat wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the NRA-ILA forum, Sisco gave homes away to three families. Political theater? Perhaps. But the fact that the homes given away were sponsored by the NRA did not make the empathy I felt for the soldiers and their families any less real than the roofs over the heads of the recipients were real.
Another tear jerking moment of the NRA-ILA Forum was when Taya Kyle, widow of murdered American Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, spoke. Again, political theater on behalf of the Second Amendment, but emotional nonetheless.
On the last day of the meetings, Ted Nugent hosted a special session called “Freedom is Not Free – Repaying Our Debt to Heroes.” Amid his patriotic ranting he told the story of a 22-year-old Marine sniper, Josh, who was paralyzed by enemy fire in Fallujah. Three years later, Josh was confined to a wheelchair and rarely made a sound, but he wanted to meet Nugent. Nugent arranged a meeting at his ranch and prior to Josh’s arrival had a device called “The Liberator” designed which could be operated by a paraplegic by “sip-and-puff.” This device allowed Josh to aim and shoot a rifle, which he did, hitting a water jug dead center and eliciting from him, for the first time in three years, a laugh. I wouldn’t want to sit and talk politics with “Uncle Ted,” but can’t deny that he’s done more to support American service men and women than I probably ever will. And it strikes me that this really is a red-thing.