The Times West Virginian

July 14, 2013

Vets4Energy emphasizes connection between energy, national security

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Vets4Energy emphasized the connection between energy security and national security durings its recent visit to the nation’s capital.

Last week, Ret. Army Capt. James McCormick, from New Haven in Mason County, traveled to Washington, D.C., with Vets4Energy to have open discussions with congressional representatives about national security as it relates to energy independence.

This is the second year that he and other members of this all-volunteer organization have journeyed to Capitol Hill.

Vets4Energy, which America’s Energy Forum supports, was created last year. It brings together admirals, generals and combat veterans of different military branches.

“We don’t represent any oil company, gas company, coal company,” McCormick said. “We’re out here for the veterans and for the American people.”

Right now, 26 states with a direct impact from natural gas, oil, coal or any kind of energy industry have an interest in the Vets4Energy effort, and each of those states has a representative. McCormick is the representative from West Virginia, and he’s looking to recruit some more individuals in the state.

“It’s really for a good cause,” he said.

The Vets4Energy group was in Washington, D.C., from Tuesday, July 9, through Thursday, July 11. They were in meetings all day Wednesday, July 10, staying busy from about 7:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. The group, as constituents, voiced the issues that are most important to them as veterans and to all Americans, McCormick said.

“It was a tremendous experience,” he said.

He briefly spoke to U.S. Senators Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Congressman David McKinley, R-W.Va., and had positive engagement with their staff members. McCormick said he met individually with Congressman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and had a nice chat with him.

He also talked with leaders from Texas, Ohio, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas and Maryland.

“They were good conversations,” McCormick said. “They were receptive, and I think that everybody desires some progress, although we’d like to see it move a little quicker, especially the job-creation part of that.”

They discussed the additional uses for coal and the push to convert coal to liquid fuel in West Virginia, which would provide a lot of jobs, as well as the potential of the natural gas and oil industry in the state.

“The message is that we need to find a way to utilize all of the natural resources that we have, plus still develop alternative fuel sources,” McCormick said.

He also talked to the political leaders about the Renewable Fuel Standard, which is heavily dependent on the use of corn ethanol, and how it affects farming. The country needs to find a way to utilize all of its resources, including looking at solar and wind as energy options.

McCormick said national security is vital to energy independence and financial security. If the economy is improved and everybody is working, the country will have less dependency on other countries, which makes the United States more secure in the end.

“If we can produce our energy, we obviously have to invest less blood and treasure in other countries to keep that flow open,” he said. “If we become energy independent, then we offer ourselves more choices.”

In addition, there are much-needed jobs that can be created. Many gas wells are being drilled in West Virginia right now, and the state would like to see that continued growth, McCormick said.

Vets4Energy focuses on jobs for all Americans, but especially for veterans. People who have served in the military, and have likely done one or two combat tours or been wounded in action, deserve good employment opportunities, he said.

“We want legitimate jobs, careers for these veterans,” McCormick said.

He said it breaks his heart to see veterans unemployed, homeless or mistreated. Those individuals have so much potential. Veterans are hard workers who know how to follow orders, show up to work and are on time, and can pass a drug test.

McCormick, born and raised in Scott Depot in Putnam County, served for 22 years in the Army and was in Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

He started out as a private in the Army and worked his way up the ranks to become an officer after 16 years. He went to Iraq as a lieutenant, and was the executive officer of the 518th Combat Gun Truck Company and commander of a route security unit there. He was wounded three times in battle, later made captain, and retired in 2009.

“I enjoyed my career in the Army,” McCormick said.

He and his wife Heather have a blended family with eight children, ranging from 2 to 20 years old, and own Raising Cane Farm, which raises bamboo and works with homeless and disabled veterans.

McCormick uses agriculture therapy to help veterans, which he said is very successful. He also goes to veterans’ farms and assists them in setting up their operations or finding their niche in life.

Last year, McCormick was one of three people in the nation to receive Citizen Service Before Self Honors, a prestigious civilian award presented by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society to recognize some form of selfless service.

For more information about Vets4Energy, visit www.vets4energy.com.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.