VFF ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY

The Beginning

In December 2005, a group of friends came together to found Vets for Freedom, in an effort to tell the American people the ground truths of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The founders were decorated combat veterans of zirklethese wars, and were frustrated with the way the media and politicians were portraying these wars to the American people. The cofounders represented the trigger-pulling class of today's military and they were not going to stand idly by as their war was being debated by politicians and pundits who had little first hand knowledge of the situation on the ground.

Armed with only a website, a few credit cards and some donations from family and friends, the cofounders began writing op-eds and appearing on television to represent the view of great majority of the America military: the troops and veterans of the global war on terror want to win the war, and we can win the war!

Our first major op-eds were published in the spring of 2006, the first in the Washington Post, and the next in the New York Times. These widely read op-eds led to increased media appearances, and our membership roster of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans quickly began to grow.

In June 2006, Wade Zirkle, the Executive Director of VFF and David Bellavia, a fellow cofounder, returned to Iraq as bellaviacivilian freelance journalists. It was a groundbreaking experiment where actual combat veterans of the war were returning to the battlefields on which they fought. Wade and David's travels took them across Iraq but their most eye opening experience occurred in Ramadi, where they were embedded with the the new Iraqi Army. When Wade and David came home from their trip to Iraq they wrote two controversial articles about what was happening in Ramadi, which at the time was the most dangerous city in Iraq. Their articles, in the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Weekly Standard reported that US and Iraqi forces were jointly creating dozens of combat outposts in Ramadi in an effort to take back the city from the insurgency, block by block. It was dubbed the "Oilspot Strategy" by the coaltion; Wade and David asserted that this plan would succeed in Anbar Province and could succeed across Iraq. As it turned out, the Oilspot Strategy of 2006, first implemented by Col Sean McFarland in Ramadi, wound up being the precusor to the surge strategy in 2007.

Vets for Freedom was widely mocked and ridiculed by the anti-war left for arguing that there actually was a way forward in Iraq.  But Vets for Freedom's work had just begun. As the criticism poured in, our numbers continued to grow; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans were signing up by the thousands to join our movement to communicate our experiences to the American public.

In August 2006, VFF formed a bipartisan political action arm to support pro-mission candidates running for re-election. After Joe Lieberman's stinging 2006 primary defeat to anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, VFF empowered Connecticut veterans to support Sen Lieberman on the airwaves. VFF aired two moving ads:

 

 

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The commercials bolstered Lieberman's support throughout the state, and he went on to win re-election in November. VFF also ran veterans advertising supporting Republican Senator Jim Talent in Missouri and Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall in Georgia.

thanksmarshall talent

zirkle2Unfortunately Jim Talent lost his re-election bid. However, Jim Marshall won his by the slimmest margin of any congressional democrat in 2006 - only 1,702 votes! We were proud to support all three honorable pro-mission candidates, and it paved the way things to come.

The fall of 2006 was a dark time in Iraq. US casualties and civilian deaths were reaching all time highs. The media dwelled on defeat. Washington was feckless. The conventional wisdom was that the situation in Iraq was spinning hopeessly out of control. It was during this time a small group of people, including VFF, began calling for more troops to stabilize Iraq and win the war. VFF executive Director Wade Zirkle made a 90-second appeal for 30,000 more troops on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric in October 2006.

Incoming VFF Executive director, Pete Hegseth penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled "More Troops Please."

Several months later, what is now known as "the surge," was born.  Soon after the situation in Iraq corrected itself and victory was in sight for the first time since the war began. Vets for Freedom, the largest Global War on Terror veteran's advocacy group in the nation continues to lead from the front and provide one clear, concise voice of the warrior generation.

Vets on The Hill 2007

vetsonhillOn Tuesday September 18, 2007, over 250 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans - along with Blue and Gold star families - took their message to Capitol Hill. Veterans from 42 states met with over 60 Senators, and over 100 Representatives. The message was simple: support General Petraeus and America's mission in Iraq.

The trip was a great success. Our voices were heard - and it appears that, barring any unforeseen developments, Congress will continue to support General Petraeus's counter-insurgency strategy - for now. This was the goal of the "10 Weeks to Testimony" campaign - and together, we accomplished our goal. But as always, the battle continues.

There were two great pieces written about the event at Human Events & Townhall.

Pete Hegseth of VFF debates the Iraq war on BBC at London, England

petehegsethIn front of televised audience of over 76 million people and included such dignitaries as former Prime Minister of Iraq Allawi. Pete Hegseth debated the Iraq war and defended the need to win the war over Islamist aggression in Iraq. The audience was polled on their position to the war before and after the debate. Hegseth was able to articulate the importance of victory in Iraq and of the three platform positions on Iraq, his side of the debate won the day.

Vets for Freedom at CPAC

cpacVets for Freedom Executive Director Pete Hegseth moderated the panel featuring the some of the Heroes that will be participating in the National Heroes Tour. Marcus Luttrell, author of the New York Times Bestselling Lone Survivor and recipient of the Navy Cross spoke alongside, Marco Martinez, author of Hard Corps and recipient of the first Navy Cross given in the Iraq war and David Bellavia, author of House to House: An Epic Memoir of War and nominee of the Medal of Honor. The brave men described their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and expressed the importance of success in the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pete Hegseth Addresses West Point

westpointOn February 19th, 2008 Vets for Freedom's Executive Director, Pete Hegseth addressed back to back classes of cadets enrolled in American Politics at West Point Military Academy; the nation's oldest and most prestigious military post. Cpt. Hegseth talked to the cadets about Vets for Freedom, his choices on means to influence policy, and the importance of political participation.

 

Vets for Freedom Heroes Tour

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Many of America's most decorated war heroes from Iraq and Afghanistan hit our nations highways with the non-partisan message of progress and freedom from coast to coast.

The Vets for Freedom National Heroes Tour
covered 8.000 miles, making 21 stops in 14 states, spreading the message of support for our troops by honoring their commitment, and rallying the country to complete the missions in Iraq and Afghansitan.

Although the tour has ended the battle to allow our men and women in uniform to succeed in the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan has not. This is a critical time for our country. We need to continue to let Americans, lawmakers, and the media know that the sacrifices of our brave military and the dramatic success they have achieved cannot continue to go unnoticed or unrecognized. Even after the testimony of the progress occurring in Iraq, there are still those that refuse to acknowledge that a safe and stable Iraq is attainable and vital to the security of our world.

As we continue to spread this message Vets for Freedom would like to thank all those that joined us on the tour to show their support. We especially want to thank Jim Hansen, Jeremiah Workman, Steve Russell, Tom Parks, Kate Norley, Marcus Luttrell and David Bellavia for taking the time out of their schedules to share their stories with people across the country.

 

Vets on the Hill 2008

hill2008April 8 2008 - Over 400 veterans from the Iraq and Afghan fronts surged through the halls of congress sharing the ground truths of their 'boots on the ground' experience with their Representatives and Senators. Vets for Freedom members from 48 states took part in almost 400 meetings with Senators and Representatives, and were present and mentioned during Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus' testimony before the Senate.

At a press conference before the event, Senators McCain, Lieberman, Graham, Cornyn, Bond, Coburn, Inhofe, Isakson, Roberts, Sessions and House Members Burgess, Marshall, Johnson, King, McCotter, Poe, Reichert, Wamp, Whittman, Diaz-Balart, Wilson, Schmidt, Blackburn, Murphy, Bachman, Carter, and Gingrey addressed our members and provided strong statements in support of our cause.  The message was clear - commitment to completion of the mission and the counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This was the largest event held on the grounds of the capital for a pro victory war rally.

backtoiraqsmVets for Freedom Back to Iraq

August 2008 - Vets for Freedom sent 8 members back to the very streets they once patrolled in uniform to assess the situation on the ground. Pete Hegseth, Joel Arends, Shawn Bryan, Kate Norley, Erik Swabb, Ben Hayden, David Bellavia and Daniel Bell, returned to such places as Fallujah, Baghdad, Baqubah, Taji, Mosul and Ramadi. They felt it was essential for the American people to know the facts about what is happening on the ground in Iraq. Some media outlets, and certain politicians, still fail to assess the situation objectively; so Vets for Freedom headed Back to Iraq to let them know what has been accomplished, what still needs to be done, and how we should proceed in order to attain sustainable.
You can read some of their writing at BlackFive.net, Weekly Standard, and National Review Online.

Hegseth and Bellavia Report from Democratic National Convention

Denver- Pete Hegseth and David Bellavia attended the Democratic National Convention in August 2008. Together they sought to continue the non-partisan VFF message that the Surge in Iraq has been successful and the importance of continuing the strategy for victory there and in Afghanistan.

Click Here to View Video from the Democratic Convention

Vets for Freedom at the 2008 Republican National Convention

September 2008. Vets for Freedom also showed a presence at the Republican National Convention where they focused their efforts to support non-binding senate Resolution 636, giving credit for the success in Iraq to the new strategy of General Petreaus' counter insurgency tactics used in the surge of troops in 2007.

Click Here to View Video from the Republican Convention

 

Vets for Freedom and the 2008 Elections

In 2008, Vets for Freedom started the Vets for Freedom PAC to support policymakers from both sides of the aisle who have stood behind our great generation of American warriors on the battlefield, and who have put long-term national security before short-term partisan political gain.  The Vets for Freeodm PAC has publicly endorsed candidates for U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives from both sides of the aisle.

Click Here to view Our Endorsed Candidates

Vets for Freedom has also produced and aired several TV commercials aimed at educationg the public about the consequences of failure in ther Global War on Terror, as well as the tru views of some running for higher office.

Click Here to see all of Vets for Freeodm's Commercials


**See the VFF accomplisments page for more recent history.

 


Paid for by Vets for Freedom Political Action Committee. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee. www.vetsforfreedom.org/pac.


Vets for Freedom is a nonpartisan 501(c)(4) organization which focuses primarily on educating the American public about the importance of achieving success on the battlefield by applying our first-hand knowledge to issues of American strategy and tactics. Vets for Freedom PAC is a federal political action committee which aims to support those candidates who recognize the importance of achieving success on the battlefield. Vets for Freedom and Vets for Freedom PAC are separate organizations.