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Whitehall veterans blast commissioner who made ‘Timothy McVeigh was a veteran’ comment

The fallout from a comment from Whitehall Township Commissioner Jeffrey Warren, who remarkedthat domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh was himself a veteran, is not over yet.Current and former military service members came out in support of veteran leaders Monday night who expressed their dismay with Warren’s comments made at a polling station on primary Election Day.Brent Fenstermaker, incoming commander at the VFW 7293 in Egypt, has been hearing from Whitehall Township veterans offended by comments.“I have to answer to these men and women,” Fenstermaker said. “That individual has really lost my respect and support. I feel he has to make amends for that comment.”McVeigh perpetrated the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168. The attack is the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. McVeigh, who was executed by lethal injection in 2001, was honorably discharged from the Army in 1991.Chris Hogan, another Whitehall Township veteran, also called for ramifications.“I learned a long time ago that consequences come with the things you say and here there should be consequences,” Hogan said.But what exactly those amends and consequences should be is less clear.Last week, Commissioner Joseph Marx Jr. called for Warren’s resignation in the wake of the comment. Marx and Commissioner Phillip Ginder were within earshot of Warren when he made the comment on May 21, though Ginder was the only one who heard what was said.Marx said Ginder told him that after Marx introduced himself to a citizen as a Marine Corps veteran who was running for mayor, he heard Warren make the comment.Warren has not disputed that he made the comment, and he apologized last week and again Monday night, asking for forgiveness from the community.“It wasn’t meaningful. But it was hurtful. I immediately knew it was wrong,” Warren said after describing his father’s service in World War II and devotion to veteran causes. “Veterans weigh heavy on my heart. It was a stupid comment. I hope I learn from it and hope in time you’ll forgive me.”Neither Hogan nor Fenstermaker called for Warren’s resignation at the meeting.Afterward, Fenstermaker declined to lay out any specifics for how Warren could make amends, saying the VFW doesn’t want to wade into politics. He said he felt it critical, however, that he bring the concerns of his members, which include about 700 service members and as many as 500 social members, to the attention of Whitehall officials.“They wanted to know from the township: Is this what we’re really thought of?” Fenstermaker said after the meeting.Township leaders sought to dispel such assumptions. Commissioner President Dennis Hower’s voice cracked while he described his father’s military service and his respect for men and women who’ve served. He assured the veterans who spoke that Warren’s comments were entirely his own and not reflective of the board.”If you’re ever wondering if you have the support of this board, please don’t wonder that. You’ll always have our full support,” Hower said.Hower went on to say that Warren’s comments were stupid, but he didn’t believe they represented the commissioner.“I know it’s not what’s in his heart,” he said.Mayor Michael Harakal also asked the veterans to understand that the township honors and supports them. He said he heard from some critical of Warren, but also from other veterans who felt stupid comments should not sink a contrite individual.“Hopefully we can find understanding in our heart before we throw anyone away so easily,” Harakal said.Bryan Brandmeier, a township veteran who was involved with organizing the effort to erect a military service member’s memorial at the municipal building, said after the meeting he felt Warren’s apology was lacking. They didn’t come soon enough and weren’t shared widely enough, he said. Issuing an apology at a public meeting on a Monday night just doesn’t cut it.Brandmeier said Warren must find a way to ensure his contrition reaches the township’s military veterans.“The longer this takes, I just think the worse it’s going to get,” he said.Morning Call reporter Sarah M. Wojcik can be reached at 610-778-2283 or swojcik@mcall.com.
Source: Morningcall

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