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Commentary: Truly honoring our veterans

If Maness persists with his talk of a boycott, New Orleanians should return the favor if he ever runs for statewide office again

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Imagine a scenario in which a candidate for U.S. Senate urges people to boycott the largest city in his or her state. That's what retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, who twice lost races for the Senate, did last week by suggesting in a radio interview that American veterans avoid New Orleans in response to the removal of four Confederate- era statues.

  Speaking on the syndicated Lars Larson Show, Maness said veterans should stay away from New Orleans, including those set to attend the Veterans of Foreign Wars' (VFW) 118th annual convention here next month. He suggested Kenner would be a better place for them to meet. When Larson mentioned that he and his wife wanted to visit the National World War II Museum in downtown New Orleans, Maness told him, "You can go visit that — but don't give the hotel taxes and the convention taxes and all that stuff to the city of New Orleans."

  Maness has been an outspoken critic of the monuments' removal, going so far as to say Mayor Mitch Landrieu "has created his own ISIS." (Yes, really.) On his WGSO-AM radio show last week (which is broadcast from New Orleans), Maness denied using the word "boycott" and called Gambit's report on it "fake news." He then repeated his call for the VFW to move its convention to Kenner. "They [New Orleans] don't deserve those tax dollars," Maness said. Sounds like a boycott to us.

  On Friday, Maness announced he will run for the District 77 state representative seat recently vacated by John Schroder, so he may have been stoking anti-New Orleans fires to further his political ambitions. Nevertheless, in the interest of clearing things up, we'd like to remind Maness of New Orleans' longstanding commitment to veterans.

   Our National World War II Museum ranks among America's finest tributes to American military valor. By its 15th anniversary, the museum had hosted millions of visitors to its five pavilions.

   Our city also is home to a brand-new, 31-acre state-of-the-art Veterans Administration (VA) hospital that serves about 70,000 servicemen and women a year.

   New Orleans was recognized by The White House in 2015 as one of the first cities in America to effectively end veterans' homelessness, using a collaborative model of charities and existing veterans' services to get homeless veterans physical and mental health care, as well as subsidized rent. Maness should know this; veterans' homelessness was a point in his failed 2014 Senate campaign.

  Maness has every right to deter veterans from visiting New Orleans if he genuinely thinks it would somehow improve their lives. However, we think a world-class museum that memorializes veterans' sacrifices, a state-of-the-art VA hospital and a track record of getting homeless veterans into the homes they deserve show just how much our city cares for veterans and their families. If Maness persists with his talk of a boycott, New Orleanians should return the favor if he ever runs for statewide office again.

  Finally, to all our readers, veterans as well as lifelong civilians: Happy Independence Day.

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