Lee County Commissioner-elect Kirk Smith (R-P.B.&J.), who is known for his combative style, hasn’t even been sworn in for his third term on the board but is already stirring up controversy after he appeared to question the service of a local combat-wounded veteran on a conservative meme-sharing Facebook page Friday:
“This is the same ‘veteran’ who conspired with a sitting Democrat (sic) County Commissioner to take three Republican Commissioners (two veterans) to court,” Smith wrote Friday, putting quotation marks around the word “veteran,” in a post on the North Carolina Truth Seekers Facebook page, which has 5,000-plus members and features political discussions, usually in meme format, from a handful of mostly conservative local activists.
The post in question was about a letter to the Sanford Herald (subscription required) criticizing one of those activists, Dale Roberts, who elsewhere on Facebook referred to local Democrat Jay Calendine as “a low level nothing” during his time in the military and who only received a Purple Heart which “doesn’t mean he did anything other than get hurt by the enemy.”
The letter to the Herald was written by Robin Saenz, who argued that the page’s administrators “have successfully managed to hit a new low by allowing the verbal abuse of a Purple Heart veteran who lost friends and team members overseas. Like all military service members, Calendine was willing to sacrifice his own life for his country. Since when is this public trashing of veterans okay?”
“I’m not surprised at the inability of some to debate without hurling personal attacks at the other, and I wasn’t surprised to find out that the perpetrator of these attacks is himself a retired soldier. I am surprised at the unwillingness of members in this group to challenge Dale Roberts’ attempts to demean and insult. Perhaps the worst part about this is not Roberts’ mocking and demeaning Calendine’s service to his country, but that those who read them chose to meet Roberts’ comments with silence. Their indifference, or the fact they didn’t object, continues to allow Roberts to think that this is OK.”
Calendine was awarded the Purple Heart after being injured in Iraq by a roadside bomb in 2009 and later medically retired from the U.S. Army. He is also a recipient of the Army’s Combat Action Badge. Roberts, himself apparently an Army veteran as well, also refers to Calendine as a “poge,” which appears to be derogatory military slang for a veteran who didn’t engage in combat, while another commenter advises folks to look up the British slang term “walt,” which apparently refers to people who misrepresent their military service.
One of the Facebook group’s moderators, former state representative and friend of the Rant Mike Stone, who is not a military veteran, commented on the post that the group operates on First Amendment principles and that he never deletes comments even though “no one has been bashed more on this page than myself.” LOL.
In any case, it goes without saying that on a Facebook site that consistently displays some of Lee County’s more disgusting behavior, today’s outright attacks on the military service of someone who happens to disagree with conservative politics represent a new low. That they’re generated by current and former elected officials is all the more disappointing. Expect more of the same from Smith when he’s (likely, he does face a Monday recount after winning election by just 55 votes) seated on the Board of Commissioners next month. Buckle up.