Vets for Freedom Leadership
|This article is part of the SourceWatch coverage of Vets for Freedom (VFF) and
Vets for Freedom Action Fund (VFF-AF).
The following are currently listed as Vets for Freedom Leadership:
- Executive Director: Pete Hegseth
- Vice-Chairman: David Bellavia, co-founder
- Secretary: Knox Nunnally, co-founder
- Co-Founder: Mark C. Seavey
- Co-Founder: Joe Dan Worley
- Co-Founder and former Executive Director: Wade Zirkle
The absence of U.S. Marine Captain Niedziocha's name on the Vets for Freedom Action Fund founders' list may be explained by a June 23, 2006, U.S. Marine Corps document, MARADMIN 289/06, which was issued by the Commandant "to assist active-duty military members in making informed decisions concerning what participation is permissable when engaging in political activities." The document provides "an overview of the policy governing permissable and prohibited political activities" in accordance with stated references.
One of the disallowed political activities (Paragraph 3, E) is to "serve in any official capacity or be listed as a sponsor of partisan political club." Vets for Freedom Action Fund is a political action committee, which would meet the criteria.
It is unknown as to why the name of Owen West, who is a Reserve Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, is no longer associated with VFF-AF.
Zirkle: Co-founder and first Executive Director
The organization's executive director Wade Zirkle (William Wade Denman Zirkle), on October 27, 2005, received four $250 reimbursements ($1,000 total) for meals from the Republican Party.  No explanation is provided as to the circumstances for the reimbursement.
During 2005, Zirkle was the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont  Regional Field Director for Republican Jerry W. Kilgore's 2005 campaign for Governor of Virginia.  Note that Kilgore was a client of The Donatelli Group. 
Additionally, while serving at Fallujah in Iraq during April 2004, Zirkle spoke frequently to and was quoted by the media:
- "U.S. Vows To Punish Lynch Mob," Associated Press/CBS News, April 1, 2004: "At a U.S. base about two miles east of the city, 1st Lt. Wade Zirkle, when asked whether U.S. forces would enter the city, said, 'It is our job to go there and maintain security in the city and we are making sure that something like that will not happen again.' ... He said Wednesday's attack was carried out by a 'few bandits and terrorists … who are terrorizing the city.'"
- "U.S. Officials Vow to 'Pacify' Fallujah," Fox News, April 1, 2004. Article includes similar wording.
- "Bremer Vows Fallujah Investigation," Here & Now/WBUR.org (Boston), April 1, 2004: "Marine First Lieutenant Wade Zirkle said that pacifying Fallujah will take time: 'We've gone in on several occasions since we've been here. So we're not afraid to go into the town; we're eager to go in there; win the hearts and minds of the people. And provide a secure environment for a secure and free Iraq.'"
- Darrin Mortenson, "Iraqis strike back - Street fighters ambush Marine advance into Fallujah," North County Times (California), April 4, 2004: "Just a few minutes before the fighting started Tuesday, First Lt. Wade Zirkle described troubles in Fallujah as caused by 'just a few in town,' and he said it would be the Marines' job to 'separate the good from the bad.'" Note: Mortenson was "reporting from Iraq with Camp Pendleton Marines," which included Wade Zirkle.
- Darrin Mortenson, "Iraqis strike back - Street fighters ambush Marine advance into Fallujah," North County Times (California), April 6, 2004.
- Kyra Phillips, Live From ..., CNN, April 7, 2004: Video Clip: "The general people that are shooting with us -- that are shooting at us are terrorists. And they dress like the local population. And that's the nature of the insurgency. You know, they fight like cowards and they fight amongst families. And that's what's difficult about -- in an insurgent fight. ... But when we get fired at, we have positive identification on our enemy targets and we take them out and we do away with the terrorists and protect the families at the same time."
- Darrin Mortenson, "Troops take over houses of fleeing Fallujah residents," North County Times (California), April 14, 2004: "From his platoon's commandeered house along a main road through the Euphrates farmland, 1st Lt. Wade Zirkle said that during the lull in the fighting the Marines are making themselves known. ... 'We're doing random checks so word gets out that this is not a porous point anymore,' Zirkle said. ... He and others said that while they have to let the neighbors come and go, they watch them all as if they could be enemies."
- Paula Zahn, Transcript: Paula Zahn Now, CNN, January 26, 2005: "When we found out about the Blackwater killers, it again reaffirmed what we knew about these people that we were fighting. They were bad, bad, evil, horrible human beings, if you can even call them human beings." (Emphasis added.)
Vets for Freedom Co-founder Mark Seavey is Director of the National Legislative Commission of the American Legion, which supports the war in Iraq.  Seavey was also listed in 2003 as a lobbyist for the American Legion by the Center for Public Integrity. 
Former Sergeant Mark Seavey is now famous for his January 6, 2006, town hall confrontation of Democrat Representatives John P. Murtha and Jim Moran in Arlington, Virginia. Touted around the internet as the Afghanistan veteran who told off Murtha by Michelle Malkin, for example, it was not revealed that Seavey was (1) a co-founder of VFF and (2) a representative of the American Legion.
In his April 13, 2006, Washington Post opinion piece "Troops in Support Of the War," Wade Zirkle recounts the event. Although Zirkle identifies himself as VFF executive director, he failed to mention Seavey's affiliation with the organization.
- "Yeah, well what happened was that was recorded by C-Span, that town hall meeting. And it found its way to the internet, and that exchange got forwarded from base to base like nothing you've ever seen before. And really, there was kind of a grass roots movement behind what Mark Seavey said, because he voiced the frustrations of the vast majority of veterans. And what I did was I picked up the phone, I looked up Mark Seavey in the phone book, and I called him. And I introduced myself, I told him what I was trying to do, and I sent him a kind of a game plan that I had been working on. And he said hey, let's get to work on this. I think you're on to something. So that's how I met him. He's actually on my advisory board. He helps me out a lot. ..."
It was also Seavey who appeared January 22, 2006, on CNN's Sunday Morning and said that "the armor issue [in Iraq] is really a tempest in a teapot. ... I've been saying all along that we hear this issue about the body armor as if it's the front and back plates, the interceptor body [armor], and the reality is what we're talking about in this case the shoulder plates, the leg grieves and side plates. Now, with all of those combined you're talking about 10 pound[s] worth of weight, which doesn't sound like a lot, but when you're carrying 70 pounds of gear, whether it's communications equipment or extra ammo, that 10 pound[s] can be a difference between being able to get to cover quickly, if you come under fire, and not being able to. So, most of the troops I talked to don't want the body armor, the additional plates. As a matter of fact, mine never came out of the shrink wrap, it was right in the bottom of the duffel bag right next to my protective masks, which also I never used." 
In the same interview, Seavey said regarding the status of morale in Iraq: "Certainly you're going to have people who complain, that's the nature of the beast. When you have a battalion of 470 men, you're going to have people who complain. But the reality is that the vast majority of them are very much in favor of this war and very much in favor of the way that we're doing it on the ground. They just wish that the -- that the politicians would leave us alone so we can kill people and break things, which is what we're paid to do." (Emphasis added.)
Seavey's identity and affiliations were, again, not mentioned.
Additionally, an anonymous blogger at maxine commented April 13, 2006: "It's also interesting to note that the same fellow (Sgt. Mark Seavey) took Rep. Jim Moran to task at the January town meeting for not attending his unit's homecoming upon its return from Afghanistan:
- "According to his bio posted on the Vets for Freedom site (and also confirmed elsewhere on the internet), Seavey was a member of the Third Battalion, 116th Infantry, Virginia National Guard, which the VFF site states is based in Woodstock. Other information posted on the internet has its headquarters in nearby Winchester, with companies located in Manassas (A), Woodstock (B), and Leesburg (C). Seavey appears to have been associated with Company C out of Leesburg. At any rate, none of these communites is located in Moran's district, and Leesburg (as well as Winchester, Woodstock, and part of the Manassas area) are in the district of Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). So while Seavey himself may be a constituent of Moran (Seavey resides in Alexandria), it's a little disingenuous to slam Moran for not being present for local homecomings, when the unit itself is based elsewhere."
Vets for Freedom Co-founder U.S. Marine Corps Captain Christopher P. Niedziocha served in Afghanistan in 2004. Niedziocha is apparently still on active duty and is "currently an instructor at the Marines Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) Company in Norfolk, Virginia." 
Vets for Freedom Co-founder HM3 Joe Dan Worley, who served in Iraq and was "wounded on September 17, 2004, while rushing to the aid of a wounded Marine," is still on active duty and undergoing rehabilitation. 
In March 2006, the Department of Defense highlighted Worley's participation in Vail, Colorado's Adaptive Ski Program, which "provided ski and snowboard classes for twenty-four service members, who lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan." See Photo No. 1 and Photo No. 2, Vail, Colorado, March 4, 2006.
Vets for Freedom's Vice-Chairman, former Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, a decorated veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq, was an invited guest of New York Republican Congressman Thomas M. Reynolds to attend President George W. Bush's 2006 State of the Union address. 
Bellavia wrote several articles in 2005 and 2006 mostly critical of Democratic Congressman John P. Murtha:
- "The Party of Defeat," FrontPageMag.com, December 9, 2005.
- "Soldiers are committed to our mission in Iraq," The Buffalo News (Free Republic), December 13, 2005.
- "Rep. Murtha is causing casualties," WorldNetDaily, December 16, 2005.
- "Does Murtha Matter Anymore?" No End But Victory, February 16, 2006.
Vets for Freedom's Vice-Chairman Owen West, a Major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve "who served in Force Reconnaissance during the invasion of Iraq in 2003" and "who returned to Iraq in 2004 as a free-lance reporter" , is the son of journalist and author Bing West who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the Ronald Reagan administration. Both Wests wrote dispatches from Iraq which were published by Slate. (See SourceWatch articles for links.)
Vets for Freedom's Secretary Knox Nunnally, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in May 2003, is a Marine infantry Captain who would appear to be still serving out his commitment on active duty.
Nunnally is the son  of Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. attorney Knox D. Nunnally  of the Houston, Texas, law firm Vinson & Elkins LLP of Enron fame and the very law firm of which Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales was a partner before he "became a permanent fixture of Team W."