More Than 100 Veterans Sign Letter Condemning Sen. McSally

By Scott Bourque
Published: Friday, June 19, 2020 - 2:53pm

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Canvassers with the progressive veterans group VetsForward pose after a canvassing session in March, 2020.
Scott Bourque/KJZZ
Canvassers with the progressive veterans group VetsForward pose after a canvassing session in March 2020.

More than 100 military veterans from across Arizona signed a letter condemning Sen. Martha McSally’s refusal to speak with the press and voters about the Trump administration’s attack on peaceful protesters outside the White House earlier this month. 

VetsForward, an all-veteran activist group that canvasses and advocates for progressive causes in Arizona, published the open letter to McSally earlier this week. The letter had more than 100 signatures from veterans representing all five branches of the armed forces and cities and towns across the state.

Military flags in the Vets Forward office
Scott Bourque/KJZZ
Military flags in the office of Vets Forward.

Former Army Capt. Signa Oliver signed the letter in part because she felt McSally failed to live up to the oaths she swore — both as an Air Force officer and U.S. senator — to defend the Constitution. 

“After I watched the attacks on peaceful protesters and the press, our appointed senator was silent,” Oliver said. “She simply can’t be trusted to keep her promises, and she’s a veteran. It’s very unnerving to us that she was appointed to the late Sen. John McCain’s seat, and swore an oath to defend the Constitution. Her failure to protect the First Amendment — that’s very concerning to me and many in Vets Forward.”

Several former high-ranking military officers, including retired Marine Corps General and former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, Adm. Mike Mullen and Gen. Michael Hayden all publicly spoke out against the president’s use of force against protesters and threats to use military force against demonstrators. 

The letter accuses McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, of condoning the Trump administration’s actions through silence. 

“To date, you have refused to answer any questions from the press about whether Trump’s actions were legal, or even moral,” it said. “You know as well as anyone President Trump is clearly violating the Constitution, and instead of using your power to do something about it, you are staying silent.”

Marine Corps Veteran and political activist Joanna Sweatt works in the Vets Forward office.
Scott Bourque/KJZZ
Marine Corps veteran and political activist Joanna Sweatt works in the Vets Forward office.

This letter is part of Vets Forward’s activism, which is openly targeting McSally ahead of the upcoming election. Before the pandemic, Vets Forward engaged in deep canvassing. They would go door-to-door and have 20-minute conversations with Republican voters — many of whom were willing to listen to military veterans despite the political differences. These conversations were successful, with many dedicated Trump voters expressing a willingness to vote against McSally. 

More recently, they’ve produced videos and advertisements accusing McSally of ignoring the needs of Arizona during the pandemic, and bring attention to McSally’s position on pre-existing conditions.  

“So far, your response and leadership during this pandemic has me greatly worried,” Marine Corps veteran Joanna Sweatt says in the video. 

“If she will not represent the interests of the Constitution and our constitutional rights, and what this country’s fabric is, then she doesn’t deserve to be in that position. She just doesn’t,” Oliver said. 

Oliver says veterans — like senators — all swore to defend the Constitution, and says it’s disappointing to see McSally ignore it. 

“Our oath never expires. It never does,” Oliver said. “We thought we left the service, but we didn’t ever leave the service. When we see injustice, it’s incumbent on those of us who (served) to step up, stand up, and speak up.”

McSally’s office has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Hunter Henderson
Scott Bourque/KJZZ
Marine Corps Veteran and political activist Hunter Henderson works in the Vets Forward office.