"We urge the President and Congress to do whatever is necessary to communicate to the Canadian government that this exercise of free expression is an absolute slap in the face to every man and woman who ever served in uniform ... both in our military and theirs," said John Furgess, the national commander of the largest organization of combat veterans in the U.S.
"Everything America holds dear and every freedom we cherish today came from the blood, sweat and sacrifice of more than 42 million Americans who have answered the call to duty since the Revolutionary War," said Furgess. "More than one million of them died helping to create our country, to save our Union, and to defend the world from tyranny. To create a memorial to those who chose to flee instead of doing their duty must not be allowed to take place."
According to news reports, an estimated 125,000 Americans fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam draft. Half returned to the U.S. when then-President Jimmy Carter granted them amnesty in 1977. The dedication of the bronze stature honoring draft-dodgers is planned for July 2006 in Nelson, British Columbia, about 140 miles north of Spokane, Wash.
The VFW fully supports freedom of expression and the arts, said Furgess, a Vietnam veteran from Nashville who retired at the rank of colonel from the Tennessee Army National Guard.
"But to honor draft-dodgers, deserters, people who brought grief to the families they left behind and anguish to those American men who took their place, is an abomination," he said. "You can say what you want about the war--we all did and some still do -- but do not dishonor the warrior by memorializing cowards."