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Pence touts support for vets, military during rally at Rochester VFW

Mike Pence speaking at a church in Arizona. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Vice President Mike Pence touted the nation’s military might and the administration’s work on behalf of veterans while also calling on the audience to fight for President Donald Trump’s re-election during a visit to the Rochester VFW on Tuesday.

“Pennsylvania and America need four more years of President Donald Trump in the White House,” Pence said at the start of his 32-minute address before about 250 people inside VFW Post 128.

On the same day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled two articles of impeachment against Trump, Pence repeatedly told the crowd how hard the president was working for them and to fulfill his 2016 campaign promises.

“President Donald Trump is the real deal. What you see is what you get,” Pence said. “No matter what the opposition is up to, he gets up every day and fights for you.”

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One of those achievements cited by Pence was the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which would replace NAFTA and, according to backers, implement trade practices more fair to America’s interests.

Pelosi announced Tuesday that her caucus would support the USMCA and there would soon be a House vote on it. Pence credited Trump for his “strong leadership” on the issue.

“It’s a win for American manufacturers. It’s a win for American farmers,” Pence said. “It really is a win for everyone across this country.”

Pence warned, though, that the Democratic Party has been taken over by “radical leftists” who want to push the country toward socialism. The day America becomes socialist, Pence said, “is the day America ceases to be America.”

The overriding theme for the day, however, was patriotism and the unyielding strength of the American military that, Pence said, was crumbling under the Obama administration before Trump arrived to save it.

Pence pointed to a record $86.5 billion funding bill for Veterans Affairs in 2018, VA reforms that have resulted in better care, shorter waiting times and suicide prevention programs.

Trump, Pence insisted, has “stood strongly” with veterans, but the Pennsylvania Democratic Party released a statement accusing Trump of breaking promises to veterans and mismanaging the VA.

“It’s clear that Trump and Pence are more interested in grandstanding than actually doing the work for veterans and their families,” said PA Democratic spokesman Andres Anzola. “Trump’s incompetent leadership has no place at the VA, and our nation’s heroes deserve better.”

The vice president also painted a picture of a military slashed to the bone under former President Barack Obama that left soldiers pulling parts off grounded aircraft to keep others in the air.

“President Donald Trump has delivered,” said Pence, who called Trump “the best friend the armed forces of the United States has ever had.”

According to the New York Times, the defense budget was around $600 billion every year between 2012 and 2017. This year’s budget, which Trump signed, is about $716 billion but is still lower than the $726 billion budget signed by Obama for 2011.

Pence boasted of military pay raises, the campaign to stomp out ISIS and the recent operation that killed ISIS leader Abu Al-Baghdadi. He also championed Trump’s tax cuts and the economy, saying, “Our veterans are coming and our veterans are going to work.”

Like the 73-year-old Trump, Pence, 60, did not serve in the military, but he said it was “humbling” to speak before the crowd of veterans as he noted his son is a Marine and his father served in the Korean War while in the Army.

“You made a difference in ensuring the ongoing vitality of the greatest nation in the history of the world,” Pence told the gathered veterans.

One of those veterans was 77-year-old Center Township resident Dar Nalli, an Army veteran, who said he has seen “expeditious treatment” at the local VA facility since Trump took office.

Another Army veteran in the audience was Ron Bogolea of Freedom, who was there to support Trump and Pence, but also to pursue another mission.

Bogolea was trying to pass along an invitation to Trump and Pence to attend a ceremony to rename the Vanport Bridge after his grandson, Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Hookstown resident who was killed in Afghanistan in November 2018 while embedded with an Army Special Operations team.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill in July that included the renaming of the bridge.

“The best support for the family is knowing your loved one is not forgotten,” Bogolea said. “As long as we keep Dylan’s name alive in our hearts, he’s still alive even though he’s not here.”

After the Rochester rally, Pence greeted some audience members before hopping on a tour bus to head to a campaign rally with Trump in Hershey, but not before it made a quick stop at the King’s Family Restaurant in Center so that the vice president could chat with customers.

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© 2019 the Beaver County Times