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Sen. John Warner, Jon Powers-Iraq Veteran and CEO of the Truman Institute listen to Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx speak about Operation Free at a White House press conference. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Veterans convene in Washington D.C. to fight the threat to national security climate change poses

By Ramona du Houx

September 15, 2009 · 

Sen. John Warner, Jon Powers-Iraq Veteran and COO of the Truman Institute listen to Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx speak about Operation Free at a White House press conference. Photo by Ramona du Houx

On September 10, 2009 over 150 veterans, mostly from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, traveled from all corners of the country to Washington, DC. There they trained and took action on a new mission: Operation FREE.

These veterans, of all ages, joined forces to speak out against U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. Their call for action focused on the national security threat that this dependency creates as it continues to contribute to global warming.

Operation FREE is a rapidly growing coalition of leading Veterans, and national security organizations, that recognize that climate change is a major threat, and support fast, bold action.

On Thursday, the veterans visited the White House to participate in a discussion on the links between climate change, energy, and national security. For members of Operation FREE, climate change legislation is absolutely critical. At the White House the goals they share for this legislation were underscored:

• To allow America to cut down on carbon consumption and carbon emissions.

• Create clean energy incentives that will help accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technology, such as electric vehicles, wind power, and solar power, creating green jobs in the process.

• Promote energy efficiency by helping consumers and businesses develop and acquire energy-efficient appliances and buildings.

“We want to see these principles become law so America can call its own shots in the world, combat climate change, and protect our nation’s safety and security,” said Jonathan Powers, an Iraq veteran and Chief Operating Officer of the Truman National Security Project. “America can once again lead by example with clean energy jobs and grow our economy.”

Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, updated the veterans on some of the administrations energy initiatives said, “If we wait to see what happens with climate change, if we wait for the seas to rise, it will be to late. We’re honored by your service to our country and how you are combating the threat of climate change. I applaud for what you are doing.”

Former Senator John Warner who coauthored a bill on climate change that failed last year offered support and praise. “The creditability veterans bring to this issue cannot be underestimated,” he said.

Other administration speakers included Thomas Paul D’Agostino, Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy Joe Riojas, Assistant Secretary for Operations, Security, and Preparedness, Department of Veterans Affairs and Mike Parker, Deputy Director, Veterans Employment and Training Services (VETS), Department of Labor.

Afterward a press conference was held in front of the White House. There, with other veterans, Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx, a sergeant in the Marine reserves from Brunswick, spoke about his experiences in Iraq that have led him to become the field coordinator for Operation FREE.

That same afternoon the veterans met with Senators from their respective states to highlight their support of the climate change legislation. Sen. Collins said she supports the legislation but was not specific on what she would vote for. Sen. Snowe was not available but her staff said she too was supportive of the legislation but offered no details.

Rep. Cornell du Houx talked in length to Sen. Snowe’s staff about weatherization efforts she has supported and helped fund with the Recovery Act and how efforts are progressing to transition the former BNAS Navy station into a clean energy/ innovation hub.

Back in Brunswick Rep. Cornell du Houx said, “Our dependence on oil is a serious threat to our national security which is why a coalition of national security organizations have joined together to make America more secure by taking control of our energy future. Here in Brunswick we are doing our part by working to develop the composite industry to support the development of wind mills, since we have the equivalent of over 40 nuclear power plants worth of wind energy off the Maine coast.”

For more about Operation FREE go to:

Disclosure: The author is the mother of Rep. Cornell du Houx