Editor’s note: This story contains language that may be offensive to some readers and listeners.

Following the midterm elections in North Carolina on Nov. 8, Carolina Public Press spoke with veterans in Fayetteville the following day about their political concerns going into the election.

The concerns of the veterans we interviewed at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6018 in Fayetteville aligned with many other voters. The issues that concerned  the veterans included abortion, inflation and preserving democracy.

They also expressed a general sentiment of not being heard and their opinions not counting.

You can hear directly from those veterans.  The transcriptions are also included next to their photos.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Joy, 75, served in the United States Marine Corps for 30 years. Joy is a Vietnam Veteran who also served during conflicts Desert Shield and Desert Storm . Joy retired in August of 1992. Joy now lives in Fayetteville, NC and was photographed at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 6018 in Fayetteville on November 9, 2022. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Carolina Public Press

Retired Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Joy, 75

Kenneth Joy: “It has always been a crow in my side (sic). We need to do something for the homeless veterans. I mean, we’re the richest country in the world. And we still have homeless veterans that’s living under bridges, living in tents. And I just think that’s demoralizing every time I see that. So, I’ve always said it, and I will continue to say it to whomever’s got an ear, that my priority is the homeless veterans. You serving your country, doing what you was asked to do. Then you come back, and there’s obviously not enough help for you when you come back. Some folks get some help. Some folks don’t get no help. And I don’t know who to blame for that, whether it’s the individual or whether it’s the government or whether it’s the community. But something needs to be done about the way homeless veterans are treated.”

Retired Sgt. First Class Thomas Person, 61, served in the United States Army with tours in Germany, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Hungary and Albania. Person now lives in Fayetteville, NC and was photographed at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 6018 in Fayetteville on November 9, 2022. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Carolina Public Press

Retired Sgt. First Class Thomas Person, 61

Thomas Person: “We got to figure out how to get more people out to vote and register to vote and cut back on some of the BS that goes along with eliminating people from voting. I think they also need to take a look at people that have been incarcerated. They have served their time and should be given a portion of their rights back to be able to vote, just like everybody else. OK . I’m sure that the people that won is OK , and the people that lost is always going to have an issue. I can’t really say that there was any irregularities per se, other than the fact that we need more people to come out and vote.”

Ben Sessoms: We’re going to have a new Congress, new elected officials in January. You know, as a veteran, you know, what do you want elected officials to focus on? What do you want politically?

Thomas Person: “Number one thing that I think they should concentrate on is veterans, veterans, veterans, to include veterans benefits, survival, benefits for spouses, things of that nature. Everybody speaks veterans when it comes to special occasions — Veterans Day, Patriots Day, you name it. But at the end of the day, what are you doing to help the veterans? We’re called upon to go take care of the country, and then when we come home, we’re pretty much forgotten. I was in Desert Storm, Desert Shield. I was also in Iraq the second time. I’ve been in a couple, few other countries as well. But the thing of it is, is that once your time is served, you’re just a nobody. When it comes to election time, when it comes to candidates wanting your vote, we’ll see them. After that we don’t, you know. If you really want to help us, help us with those things to help us improve our facilities, so that we can encourage more veterans all across the board, to include females, to become members of these organizations, and not wait to the last minute when you need our help. You want us to help you, but you can’t help us.

Thomas Person: As far as women’s rights to do what they should be able to do with their bodies, especially when it comes to rape or incest. Because you don’t know how that baby’s going to turn out. I’m not saying I’m really pro or con on the issue, I’m just pointing out that females should have an option. 

As far as the economy goes, our economy has been in crisis for years. OK. It’s been in crisis for years. We keep raising and lowering the interest rate. We got individuals that are in certain positions, that’s making money, but none of that money is rolling back downhill to the average individual. We went through COVID. COVID laid off a lot of people, a lot of people lost their jobs, a lot of people lost their lives. But yet, still everything’s keep going up. 

You look at your manufacturers, you look at your food products, you look at your gas. These individuals are getting rich off just the word “inflation.” So, if there’s an inflation, what are they doing to try to help lower inflation? How are they trying to help the economy? They pissed and moaned about the pipeline. They pissed and moaned because President Biden wanted to draw from the reserves. Everybody has a beef about something, but nobody comes up with a good answer or a good situation to move us forward. There’s so much bitterness because of certain parties fighting amongst themselves that nobody’s really trying to sit down and find out how we can make this whole situation better.”

Retired Stf. Sgt. LaFaith Artis, 61, served in the United States Army for 20 years and retired in 1991. Artis now lives in Goldsboro, NC and was photographed at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 6018 in Fayetteville on November 9, 2022. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Carolina Public Press

Retired Stf. Sgt. LaFaith Artis, 61

Ben Sessoms: So, you know we got a new Congress coming up, you know, here in January. We’ve got new elected officials. What do you think they need to focus on, you know, going forward over the next few months and the next year?

LaFaith Artis: “Well, I think they need to focus on doing things that’s going to help America. Helping people, the working people, the elderly, law enforcement, all kinds of changes that could make it better for everybody, whether they retired or not, or the military. I think they need to do more for the sick and shut-in and the construction of the United States roads and bridges, teachers’ pay, and the bottom line is the minimum wage.

LaFaith Artis: People need, they need to come up with a better solution and pay more because a lot of people have to work two or three jobs, just for minimum wage, just to make it, and it’s getting way out of hand. Well, as far as abortion goes and all, I think that is something they should leave alone and let a woman have a choice with her body. And as far as children and all, child care is too expensive. Some can’t afford child care, and they need it so they can make a living and do for their family.”

harles Mack, 77, served in the United States Marine Corps for 30 years. Mack now lives in Fayetteville, NC and was photographed at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 6018 in Fayetteville on November 9, 2022. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Carolina Public Press

Charles Mack, 77

Charles Mack: “Every time you have an election, most of the candidates talk about the other candidates. They never tell you what they’re planning to do to help or what they’re offering the people that they should be supporting. They talk about what I did wrong if I was a candidate running for a position, but they do not come out and say, “If I’m elected, this is what I would do to try to make things better for the person. The situation is at the point now, no one wants to listen to nobody. You know, you may have a problem, but nobody have time to hear your problem. That’s why the problems is continuing to lingering because we just do not have the time to look at what we’re doing.”

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 2, Claude Bright, 61, served in the United States Army for 22 years. Bright was involved in conflicts in Somalia, Desert Storm, and Desert Shield. Bright now lives in Hope Mills, NC and was photographed at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 6018 in Fayetteville on November 9, 2022. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Carolina Public Press

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 2, Claude Bright, 61

Claude Bright: I’m more of abortion, I believe, me, believe that, you know, a woman should have the right to do as she feel. She knows her body, she knows her situation better than the government. And as someone has said at one time before, that if the government wants to regulate, to tell a woman what to do, they should have the same right to tell a man if he have too many kids, to regulate that, you know, so if he can’t tell a man, “You can’t have no more kids,” you shouldn’t tell a woman, regardless of her situation why she got pregnant, to do abortion or not.

I see a lot of people struggling. My wife, she operates a food bank. And by her operating the food bank, we see a lot of people coming in requesting food. And because a lot of living paycheck to paycheck, and, you know, you got to make the decision: Do I put gas in my car to get to work or do I put food on the table for my kids?

Claude Bright: You know, then you go back, do I do the rent or do I, you know, everything right now, the economy just blowing up? And one thing that I did admire that the president did do, you know, when he open up the oil reserve to help relieve some of the gas prices. That was nice, but it didn’t last long. 

Other than that, the economy, hopefully it’ll turn around the beginning of next year. I’m looking for a turn. Even though Fayetteville is a military town, but you don’t see that military respect. There’s a lot of people who because they figure, “OK , you’re military, you’re military retired, you’re military veteran, you know. No, you shouldn’t get no different treatment than anybody else.” 

But as for myself, I did Desert Shield, Desert Storm. I did Somalia, and I seen what happened to those. And now sometimes, we got the suicide rate is just skyrocketing. And some of that can go with if someone just look at, see a person, see a vet, and they could say, just say good morning to them. You know, they may lift that veteran’s spirit. But, around Fayetteville, I would say that I would like to see a lot more respect towards the veterans, especially our older veterans, you know, because our older veterans, they done been through a lot of the stuff that they — and I always thank them — because they had set the standard for me, coming behind them. And for the younger ones that’s going ahead, you know, because what they went through — everything now is plug and play. 

But what they went through and the struggle, and came home to no welcome. And some of these Vietnam vets that still, you know, having issues and no one helping them. You know, so I think if we respect our elderly vets a lot more, it would be good.”

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Ben Sessoms is a former Carolina Public Press reporter. To reach the Carolina Public Press newsroom, email news@carolinapublicpress.org.

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  1. Claude Bright is exactly right on abortion and veterans: they should get no special treatment apart from that already determined by U.S. law, apart from benefits of whatever type a veteran may receive being adequately adjusted for inflation, which isn’t the case now. Inflation adjustments are always as year behind and vanish within weeks by new inflation. Payments need to be increased to met reality.