Scott Cooper, a retired marine and leader of Veterans for American Ideals, on Saturday published an op-ed in USA Today admonishing the neo-Nazis marching on Charlottesville and Washington D.C.—and imploring his fellow veterans to “fight for our ideals and our sacred things.”
In the essay, Cooper explained that “watching white supremacists and neo-Nazis” descend on Charlottesville one year ago “made my stomach churn.”
“I served for 20 years in the Marine Corps, much of that time overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Cooper wrote. “These white supremacists and what they represent violate every principle I defended in uniform. There are things that are unpatriotic, like speaking about another group with contempt.”
Cooper added that he works with veterans to confront racists. “When it comes to citizenship, I believe no one gets to stay on the sidelines,” he said.
Noting that his organization, Veterans for American Ideals, seeks to build an “anti-Charlottesville vision of America, Cooper wrote, “the response to Charlottesville cannot be cynicism.”
“I’m disappointed and heartbroken to see that there are fellow Americans who support the ethno-nationalism of Charlottesville and are participating in the Unite the Right rally this weekend,” Cooper explained. “Our response is unequivocal and affirmational: We are going to inspire a different consensus, one based on the idea that we are a nation that judges people according to their character, that believes fervently in the right of people to worship as they choose, that welcomes refugees, and that is about building up and not tearing down.”
“In all of our service at home and abroad, we are grateful to be Americans and believe that we have a responsibility to make sure the America we fought for continues for generations to come,” he added.