Mike Pence in Indianapolis boasts of ‘new American strength’
Vice President Mike Pence returned to Indianapolis on Wednesday to address the American Legion’s 101st national convention, where he touted the Trump administration’s stance on foreign policy, improved health care for veterans and the soon-to-be sixth branch of the U.S. military.
Pence, the son of a Korean War veteran and father of a U.S. Marine, said his love for service began when he won an American Legion Oratorical contest as a high school senior in Columbus, Indiana.
The former Indiana governor spoke to a nearly full room at the Indiana Convention Center for roughly 30 minutes, where he assured Legion members that President Donald Trump is an advocate for the military and its veterans, and that his record shows it.
Pence cited military spending increases under the Trump administration and said the president would soon swear in a commander for the U.S. Space Force. Pence also pointed to peace negotiations with North Korea, trade with China and the fight against ISIS.
He credited Trump with getting North Korea to agree to return the remains of Americans killed in the Korean War. More than two dozen have been identified and returned to U.S. soil.
“We brought back our heroes, and there’s more to come.”
Pence said the administration has helped today’s combat soldiers return home, too. He didn’t mention growing concerns about the possibility of a recession and the consequences of an escalating trade war with China, which is hurting some Indiana farmers, instead pointing to what he called a strong economy, low unemployment and the president’s push against China for fair trade practices.
“With this new American strength, we’re once again embracing our role as leader of the free world,” he said.
Pence went on to criticize the state of the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Obama Administration, and said the VA now has a record high approval rating from veterans. He praised the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 that resulted in more than 7,000 VA employees being fired for negligent behavior.
“The era of abuse is over,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest applause came when Pence said the VA would not be a “religion-free” zone, referencing a lawsuit in New Hampshire that seeks to remove a historic Bible in a VA hospital. He delivered a commencement speech in May at Taylor University in northern Indiana, where he received a standing ovation as he urged Christians to show resolve as they face attacks against their faith.
Dozens of the Christian school’s graduates and faculty also walked out in protest over whether it was appropriate for the nondenominational Christian liberal arts school to invite the vice president, known for his conservative religious views, to speak. He received a warmer welcome in late April at the NRA’s national convention in Indianapolis, where he pledged to defend gun-owners’ rights.
He pledged the same in front of the American Legion, saying he and Trump will always “stand for freedom.” He went on to criticize congressional Democrats and proclaimed, “America will never be a socialist country,” to which members stood and applauded.
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Pence later invoked President Ronald Reagan, saying, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” and asked for the Legion’s continued support.
“We can’t just settle to win the next election,” Pence said. “We gotta win the next generation.”
Contact IndyStar reporter Elizabeth DePompei at 317-444-6196 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @edepompei.