Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 19, 2013

Editorial: Airport should give vets prominent recognition

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Until Cherry Capital Airport gets leadership with a spine, the airport ought to just scrap for now a plan to stick a sign welcoming home active-duty military personnel in a corner by a luggage area.

The local group Veterans for Peace wanted to erect a sign in a prominent spot by the arrival area at Cherry Capital to welcome members of the military and thank those coming home for their service.

A great idea — and one no one had come up with before.

But a handful of area veterans who oppose the group’s politics attacked the idea; more accurately, they say they like the idea of a sign — something they’ve never done in the past 50 or so years - but only if Veterans for Peace didn’t get credit. So there.

Apparently worried about getting a tongue-lashing, the seven-member airport board — made up of individuals named by Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties to represent county interests - agreed to a welcoming sign but only if it was stuck in a corner near a baggage carousel.

Airport officials said it’s the only area available; all other areas of the airport are already taken up by directional signs or paid advertising, and heaven forbid the airport should give up some paid advertising space to honor local veterans.

What’s really happening here is that a handful of people who apparently don’t like the idea of peace, or at least of veterans lobbying for peace, threw a fit when they heard about the Veterans for Peace plan, and got their way.

Former airport commissioner and Leelanau County Commissioner Richard Schmuckal led the opposition and recruited Veterans of Foreign Wars commanders from Lake Leelanau and Traverse City.

Opponents didn’t object to the message, according to Cherrlyand VFW Post 2780 Commander Richard Thibeau, they just don’t like Veterans for Peace.

“The Veterans for Peace organization is a radical, liberal political organization,” Thibeau said. “Their (past national) president is a female proud of her arrest record. To me, that’s a criminal organization, it’s not patriotic and should not be given any consideration.”

Wow. All, apparently, for wanting to wage peace, not war. Since when is favoring peace a criminal activity? Or not patriotic? Or not worthy of consideration?

Thibeau said he likes the idea of a sign — perhaps with a note at the bottom saying “brought to you by VFW Post 2780” - or “supported by REAL Americans” - but only if there was no indication it was a donation from Veterans for Peace. Just pretend those criminals never thought of the idea, eh?

Even he thinks it merits a more prominent location in the airport than being stuck by the baggage area.

So the airport board did what most bureaucrats do in times of stress - find a compromise that doesn’t satisfy - or offend - anyone. They decided to hang the sign on a phone stand for a year in the airport’s luggage area. If anyone sees it there and is still offended, it’s not the airport’s fault.

Airport commission vice chairman Daniel Ahrns, who is appointed to the commission by Grand Traverse County, said commissioners took all concerns into consideration before they chose the baggage site — except the possibility of offending veterans who might wonder why the sign appears to be an afterthought. Which, given its second-tier location (no one, apparently, wants to advertise there) it appears to be.

Thibeau is certainly free to hold whatever opinions he wants about Veterans for Peace. But before other vets shake their heads and say “Yup,” they may want to reflect on the fact that members of Veterans for peace are, in fact, veterans, many of Vietnam, some of Iraq and Afghanistan.

They served, they put their lives on the line and they even have the right to think peace is preferable to war and to speak their minds.

Tim Keenan, president of the local chapter, said Veterans for Peace is an anti-war, nonprofit group of military veterans dedicated to informing the public about the true causes and costs of war while supporting veterans and their families.

When (or maybe if) the airport commission finds the gumption, it should hang a banner over the arrivals area where no one can miss it to say “thanks” to returning veterans and to welcome them home.