Governor misfires on pick for veterans post

October 2, 2013

To the Editor,

Recently Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Iliario Pantano as assistant secretary for the State Division of Veteran’s Affairs. He certainly is not the first “non-electable” person given a state job and I have no idea who has been in this position before, but he certainly does not meet the sniff test needed to represent veterans.

While the Marines chose not to prosecute him, there are some damaging facts that even he agrees upon. Two Iraqis in a vehicle were captured while fleeing a building. The men were handcuffed and the vehicle was inspected completely twice. The plastic handcuffs were cut off of the men and they were told to get in the car and to search it. The other two Marines with Pantano were told to maintain security to the front and rear of the vehicle — facing away from the vehicle. After a short period of time, Pantano emptied his weapon into the men and then emptied a second magazine into them — 45 shots in all. He stated that he thought they were going to flee. Why not put the handcuffs back on them if they were a threat? Forty-five shots in all? And of course his coup de grace, he put a sign over them that read “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.”

Those people who have been in combat know that it is very easy to hurt and kill innocent and not-so-innocent people. My Lai in Viet Nam was the classic example where 500 civilians were killed, one soldier was convicted — who actually only did three years of house arrest — and the three soldiers who tried to stop it were publicly disgraced until 30 years later when they were eventually decorated.

One can get caught up in the emotions of being attacked, having fellow soldiers killed or maimed and not actually knowing who the enemy is. That is the essence of war. However, one is not handed a license to do as one pleases and Pantano failed that requirement. Many of us were presented opportunities to do less than what we would have expected of ourselves and chose the correct act.

Veterans should not have someone representing them who is far more thug than hero. The governor should have chosen more wisely.

William J. Smith