Gov. McDonnell Visits American Troops in Afghanistan - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Gov. McDonnell Visits American Troops in Afghanistan

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Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense
Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - In the midst of a covert trip to Afghanistan to visit American troops, Gov. Bob McDonnell says he will discuss undisclosed gifts from donor and benefactor Jonnie Williams later.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Kabul, Afghanistan Wednesday, the governor continued on an apology issued Tuesday when he announced he'd repaid more than $124,000 in loans from Williams. Williams is the chief executive of troubled Virginia nutritional supplements maker Star Scientific Inc.

But the governor would not discuss thousands of dollars in gifts, saying there will be a time for that when he returns from his military tour.

McDonnell met with U.S. military commanders in Kuwait and Afghanistan and with troops from Virginia. He visits an Army hospital in Germany before returning to Virginia this weekend.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



Office of Governor Bob McDonnell
Press Release

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Governor Bob McDonnell has traveled to the Middle East as part of an official Department of Defense delegation visit to U.S. service members stationed in Kuwait and Afghanistan, including members of the Virginia National Guard.  The governor's trip was at the invitation of the Department of Defense, which regularly takes elected officials to observe military operations and visit with U.S. troops abroad. The Governor is joined on this ongoing trip by Montana Governor Steve Bullock.  For security reasons, details of the governor's trip were not publicly disclosed in advance.  This is the Governor's first trip to Kuwait and Afghanistan.

On Monday morning, Governor McDonnell and Governor Bullock met with Lieutenant General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, Director of the Joint Staff, and General Frank J. Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, at the Pentagon for pre-trip briefings, as well as to discuss the current and future state of the U.S. military forces, both at home and abroad, with special emphasis on the National Guard.  Governor McDonnell was joined by Major General Daniel E. Long, Jr., Adjutant General of the Virginia National Guard.  Following the meeting, the governors visited Walter Reed National Medical Center.  There, the governors met with wounded service members and visited the Military Advanced Training Center, a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the care and rehabilitation of men and women recovering from injuries sustained in the service of their country.  The visit also included a tour of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, a Department of Defense institute that provides cutting-edge evaluation, treatment planning, research and education for service members struggling with mild traumatic brain injury and other psychological conditions.

The governors departed for the Middle East late Monday, arriving Tuesday afternoon at Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait. The delegation then traveled to Udairi Army Air Field, where Governor McDonnell toured the facility and held a town hall meeting with constituents from Virginia.  Wednesday morning, following breakfast with the troops at the air base, the delegation traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan. While there, Governor McDonnell was briefed on operations and met with service members.

Speaking about the trip, Governor McDonnell said, "I was so incredibly humbled and inspired by the brave men and women I had the opportunity to meet at Walter Reed.  Words cannot describe the trials they have been through on the battlefield, and the challenges they face as they work to regain their strength and recover.  Visiting these soldiers prior to departing for the Middle East was a poignant reminder that every day someone's mother, father, brother, sister, husband or wife is voluntarily protecting us overseas to ensure our safety and freedom back here at home. For that, we are eternally grateful."

Governor McDonnell continued, "As an Army veteran, and the father of a daughter who served in the Army in Iraq, it is particularly meaningful to me to have had this opportunity to visit our troops serving in Kuwait and Afghanistan, including members of the Virginia National Guard.  We are a little over halfway through the trip and already we have met so many incredible men and women who have volunteered to serve in harm's way to keep our nation safe and secure.  It has been my honor to speak directly with them about the challenges they face and the mission they are living every day. On behalf of all Virginians, I have thanked our men and women in uniform for their selfless service in defense of the liberty and freedom we hold so dear. Freedom is not free, and the courageous men and women of the American military are heroes. We salute them."

Governor McDonnell is scheduled to return to Virginia on Friday.  Additional details regarding the trip will be available following his return.

Governor McDonnell served 21 years in the U.S. Army, both active duty and reserve, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1997.  His oldest daughter, Jeanine, served in the U.S. Army, including a tour of duty in Baghdad, Iraq in 2005-2006.  Both Governor McDonnell's father and father-in-law served in the military.



Governor Bob McDonnell
Press Release

Dear Friend,

As you read this email I'm currently visiting with our troops in Afghanistan.

This trip began at the start of the week, but due to security requirements we weren't able to make it public until today.

On Monday I joined Montana Governor Steve Bullock for a briefing at the Pentagon, followed by a very moving experience meeting with wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Medical Center. I cannot say enough about the bravery and the courage shown by these great American patriots who have given so much so that we may be free.

Yesterday we arrived at Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait and traveled to Udairi Army Air Field where I got to hold a town hall with Virginians serving there. The first thing I did was thank them, on behalf of all Virginians, for their service. After breakfast this morning with the troops we were back in the air, arriving here in Kabul a while ago.

We will remain in Afghanistan today and tomorrow, and continue meeting with Virginia soldiers and military leaders. Friday we will travel to Germany and visit a military medical facility to again meet with men and women who have been wounded in the service of our country. Part of that visit will be a little bit of a homecoming for me. I served in the Army in Germany in the late 70's as a platoon leader with the 2nd Armored Division, including running a medical clinic for our post. It will be nice to be back. 

As Virginians, we have a close and historic relationship with the American military. This great Commonwealth can rightly be called the "home of America's Armed Services." From the Pentagon to Langley to Fort Lee to Naval Station Norfolk, the military defines our communities, employs our loved ones, and is an integral part of the fabric of life in this great state. I know that like myself, our daughter Jeanine who served in the Army in Iraq, and both my father and my father-in-law, so many of you have served our nation with honor and valor. Thank you for your service. And I also know that many of you who are reading this have loved ones in harm's way at this very moment. Our prayers and our deep appreciation are with you and your family.

This is a trip I've looked forward to for a long time. Freedom is not free. Everyday we wake up safe and secure because our neighbors, co-workers, family members and friends have volunteered to leave the peace of home for the danger and uncertainty of our world's most volatile locations. On this trip, I'm telling them, on behalf of all of us, thank you. The people of Virginia will never forget their service, their courage, their sacrifice.

God Bless Our Troops,

Bob McDonnell 

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