Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty speaks in front of veterans and dignitaries outside the Lackawanna County Courthouse Thursday.
Cathy Wechsler of U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski’s office speaks in support of alternative energy sources.Shelby Fisk photos /The Times Leader
SCRANTON – Veterans on the “Operation Free” bus tour were joined Thursday morning at the Lackawanna County Courthouse by Mayor Chris Doherty and a group of area veterans to advocate alternative energy sources.
Doherty and representatives from the offices of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Nanticoke, spoke to encourage support.
The tour is sponsored by Operation Free, a coalition of veterans and national security groups working together to raise awareness about national security threats posed by climate change and the importance of building a clean energy economy that is not tied to fossil fuels.
Its members support a clean energy plan that cuts carbon pollution, develops clean energy incentives, and puts Americans in control of their energy future.
The organization considers climate change a threat to the U.S. military and its humanitarian efforts in providing food, water, medical services and border security.
The veterans associated with Operation Free were eager to voice their reasons for joining the campaign.
Robin Eckstein, of Wisconsin, who served in Iraq, spoke of her war zone experiences to explain the need for clean energy sources.
“When I was in Iraq, I was driving convoys in Baghdad and surrounding areas. The two main things we were hauling were fuel and water. … As we would leave the gates of Baghdad International Airport, it was a roll of the dice as to what we could encounter that day… .
“I realized that if we could even be a little more energy efficient, there would be less times we would have to go up to the gates and refuel, which could potentially save lives,” Eckstein said.
Retired U.S. Army Capt. Michael Breen noted that Americans’ continued dependence on foreign oil funds the enemy and helps provide resources for them during war.
“When you pay at the pump… we are literally putting the bullets in the magazines that are being fired back at our guys in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Breen said.
“We don’t have to make a choice between our lifestyle and an independent energy policy that promotes a clean energy environment and keeps us safe,” he added.
The area veterans said they are disappointed with elected officials on this front.
“One of the reasons I’m here is because an elected official, (state) Representative (Daryl) Metcalfe from Butler Township, called veterans ‘traitors’ for not supporting his energy policy. I think that’s terrible and disgusting for one of our elected officials to say that,” said John Mellow, a Vietnam War veteran.
Operation Free is supported by organizations including VoteVets.org, VetPAC, The Truman National Security Project and The National Security initiative.
The tour, which also made stops in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, expects to take its message to 52 cities in 21 states.
For more information about the tour, visit the Web site at www.operationfree.net/on-the-bus/.