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Letter to Sen. Pres. Keith Faber regarding Sen. Seitz "Bataan Death March" comments

Posted on April 14, 2014

Dan Sawmiller, Iraq War combat veteran, and Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative for Ohio and Kentucky, sent the following letter to Senate President Keith Faber.  This letter is in response to Sen. Bill Seitz, Chairman of the Senate Public Utilities Committee, referring to Ohio's clean energy standards as a "Bataan Death March" during hearings on SB 310 on April 9th, 2014.  An original copy of the letter can be found HERE.

 

Senator Keith Faber
President of the Ohio Senate
1 Capitol Square, 2nd Floor
Columbus, OH 43215

Senator Faber,

My name is Dan Sawmiller, and I’m a combat veteran originally from St. Marys, Ohio. My younger brother and I both served in Iraq as .50 caliber machine gun operators as a part of Task Force Iron Claw, a combat mission that cleared routes from roadside bombs to allow for safer combat operations and movement of supply convoys. We were deployed as combat engineers within the 612th Engineer Battalion based out of St. Marys. Our company found and detonated hundreds of Improvised Explosive Devices, Explosively Formed Projectiles, Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices and other enemy weaponry. In addition to my route clearance assignment, I also spent months providing outer perimeter security at Abu Ghraib prison where my platoon was frequently mortared or otherwise attacked. I was awarded the Combat Action Badge for my direct engagement with our enemy. Both of my grandfathers served in Europe during WWII, and other members of my family have served honorably as well.

On April 9, 2014, I testified as a representative of the Sierra Club in front of your Senate’s Public Utilities Committee, chaired by Senator Bill Seitz. Just before my testimony, the Senator referred to Ohio’s existing clean energy law as a “Bataan Death March.” In case you’re not familiar, the Bataan Death March consisted of 80,000 American and Filipino soldiers who were victims of a heinous war crime where captured troops were forced to march 80 miles through the jungle of the Philippines. They were starved, physically abused, tortured and brutally murdered. As many as 650 American soldiers were killed during the march alone. Those who made it through were tortured as prisoners of war and killed on Japan-bound ships. The selfless service of these veterans is something to be honored, not mocked.

This offensive comment by the Senator was unfortunately not the first of its kind. He has often times referred to the positions of those he doesn’t agree with as being akin to Joseph Stalin’s “5-year plan.” He’s spoken in a German accent while referring to Hitler’s Nazi Germany and has had other derogatory comments for those opposing his bill. As another veteran spoke in front of the committee, Senator Seitz stood up, opened his pack of Marlboro Lights and walked out on the veteran’s testimony. This behavior is completely devoid of any honor or respect, and is not becoming of the Ohio Senate or the State of Ohio.

The reasons for supporting the clean energy law in its current form are clear and abundant. I am not writing to discuss the weaknesses of the pending bill or my position on clean energy. I am writing because our state should provide nothing short of a fair democratic process whereby we debate legislation in a dignified way. I ask that you demand respect for the sacrifices that Ohio’s soldiers have made for generations and that you ensure those who testify in your committees can do so with confidence and without fear of harassment.

Regards,

Dan Sawmiller
Combat Veteran
Senior Campaign Representative, Sierra Club

Sierra Club, 131 N. High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215 – daniel.sawmiller@sierraclub.org – 614-461-0734

 

Cc: Frank LaRose, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Chair
Jim Hughes, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Vice Chair
Michael J. Skindell, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Ranking Minority Member