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20-Year Navy Veteran Charley Conrad: Memorial Day Is a Reminder to Fight for Democracy and the Right to Vote


by Charley Conrad, 20-Year Navy Veteran

As a twenty-year Navy veteran, I have had the honor of serving our country on five different ships, and defending the ideals that strengthen our democracy. I have witnessed the sacrifices that so many Virginians have made in the name of freedom.  Those Veterans and Military Family members know the pain of long-term separations.

I watched my son serving in the Navy sail off to war.  That sinking feeling in my heart as he sailed away cannot be explained, but Veterans and Military Family members know that feeling all too well.   And throughout my Navy service, the values of integrity and duty guided my actions.

These values are not just encapsulated in our military; they permeate through the spirit of all Virginians, forming the bedrock of our most important civic duties, including voting.

Unfortunately, these values are threatened by restrictive voting laws, dark money, and power-hungry politicians who place their own interests over those of the electorate. Simply put, those pushing anti-democratic practices are not acting in good faith; they are traitors to the values we hold dear.

As we approach the Memorial Day holiday, I remember my Dad, a World War II Army Air Corp Veteran.  His plane was shot down and he ended up a prisoner of war.   It is not only a time to reflect on his values and our values — it is also a time to act on them – realigning our democracy with what it ought to be.  My Dad was fiercely patriotic and loved this country and always voted. He instilled the importance of voting in my sister and me.

Thankfully, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act are vehicles through which we can protect our Democracy and the right to vote.  Both Acts are currently on the docket in Congress.

The Freedom to Vote Act addresses threats to our democracy head-on, ensuring that every American can register to vote and cast their ballot free from undue influence. The bill recognizes the diverse needs of our population, including service members stationed overseas and disabled veterans, and works to ensure these groups can carry out their civic duties. Provisions for early voting and voting by mail are not mere conveniences; they are essential measures that respect the responsibilities of American voters.

Likewise, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act empowers Virginians by extending all the resources needed to identify and fight back against suppressive voting practices. This legislation honors the legacy of those who have stood up for free, fair, and transparent elections, restoring provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and protecting the cornerstone of our democracy – civic participation.

In tandem, these bills work to hold our leaders accountable, reaffirming that our democracy is based in principle and serves the will of the people.

US Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have played a pivotal role in advancing both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in Congress. Their commitment to these values reflects a deep understanding of what it truly means to fight for the interests of Virginians and not personal gain.

This Memorial Day we cannot be complacent. The right to vote, which too many Americans have fought and died for, is too precious to be eroded by partisanship or neglect. It is time we enshrine the crucial measures laid out in the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act as the law of the land.



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