Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

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Zach LaPorte

Zach LaPorte is an Iraq war veteran

February 20th, 2011 12:29 PM

Why Am I Here?

Why am I here? That’s the question I asked myself as I glared up to the ceiling of the rotunda inside the beautiful Madison capitol building. Its not that I was asking myself the question to reassure myself I was there for the right reasons. Why spend all day inside on the warmest day of the year, sweating, grinding, pushing up against so many strangers? I am here for my University. When you cut funding to the most prestigious public research institution in the country, you hurt me. You tell people, no, Wisconsin is not about moving forward, it is about moving backward. When a teaching assistant position is no longer lucrative, you move on to the next best place. When the research dollars are less plentiful, there is no motivation to even consider applying.

I am here for the teacher families. My aunt and uncle are both teachers in this great state. They live modestly in the small town of Spooner. Family vacations in the summer consist of the great trek to Green Bay Packers training camp. When you take ten percent of their salary away in a “stealth tax” you limit their ability to do this. What do they tell their two beautiful daughters when they graduate high school? “Sorry honey, we just couldn’t afford to put enough money away for college”, they might say.

But mostly, I’m here for the single mothers and fathers. When my brother and I were young, my parents split up. With a two-year nurse's degree, she raised us both from kindergarten through high school with a public health care worker's wages. She didn’t make much, but she was frugal. Every night there was food on the table, because we were her life. There was no other option. And now I see Scott Walker’s tax cuts and how they might have affected our family. Why is this recession the working middle class families fault? We aren’t the ones that gave the banks bailouts. I didn’t tell Bush or Obama to give millions of dollars to General Motors. I didn’t tell Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase thousands of bad house mortgages. I didn’t order the invasion of Iraq to fight for oil.

Oh yeah, Oil, I almost forgot about that one. When my brother and I graduated from high school, there was no college fund. We didn’t have any money in the bank to help pay tuition. I thought to myself, ”Wouldn’t it be something to go defend my country, to fight for freedom?” Ever since I returned home from two deployments I curse the day I had such a naïve thought. Thoughts of betrayal have filled my head, “who is to blame?” Instead of answer these questions I drive on, just like my mother taught me.

And now I see those freedoms I once believed were at stake in the sands and streets of Baghdad. They are on the table as we speak. Walker has threatened to take them from the very people I volunteered to defend.

That is why I am here. These teachers, firefighters, and snow-plow drivers aren’t strangers. They are my family, and I will fight for them because it is what I believe in.

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