This Veterans Day, HCDP would like to focus on the many veterans in our Dems and Friends community. We believe all veterans deserve not only our thanks, but also real respect as we honor their service with tangible actions.
Bob Houde is one of HCDP’s most visible veterans. In the run-up to the Trump presidency, he organized a group called the Carolina Veterans Peace Coalition to protest continuing U.S. presence in Afghanistan as well as to express discontent with the anti-democratic values of MAGA Republicans and show support for progressive candidates.
The group reassembled after the attempted coup of January 2021, this time with a new name: Veterans for Democracy.
While the group’s numbers fluctuate, there have been at least 30 veterans involved over the years. Another key leader is Bruce Macdonald, who has made many large banners for parades and demonstrations, participated at multiple events, and is now working with Bob to explore other ways veterans can work to protect democracy.
A lifetime of engagement: one veteran’s story
Bob enlisted in the Army after high school. Even then, he was a follower of current events and wanted to make a difference.
He served six years in the Army Security Agency and then four years in Naval security for a total of ten years in military intelligence. After his service, he completed college, taught high school entrepreneurial studies, became active in real estate investment, and did other miscellaneous jobs including hotel management.
A native of Massachusetts, Bob and his wife, Debbie, moved to the Carolinas with their two children in 1992. They’ve been in Henderson County for 23 years. “My efforts and schedule the past few years would not have been possible without my Deb’s understanding and support,” Bob said.
“Trump is not a friend of Veterans,” he added. “His antagonism against Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam POW, was partly what inspired me to start the group. Trump does not advocate for Veterans or the people serving in the military right now. He does not support American ideals. He is an ally of Putin. In the army, I did surveillance on Soviets, and I can’t believe a fan of Putin was ever in the White House.”
Like many other veterans, Bob believes it’s important for progressive voters to claim the flag and patriotism.
“The MAGA GOP has co-opted the patriotism label and I believe we need to take it back,” Bob said. “I started the group because I am pro-Democracy. That’s the whole ballgame, especially now. Democracy is about inclusivity, and I’m the guy who believes that everyone should be included. I’ve made an effort to reach out to African American veterans and they have joined us for some events. I was also excited that we served as a watch for the Pride Picnic this year.”
Bob and the group help with other efforts as well, such as the work of John Owens, a local gun violence activist.
Bob strongly believes in getting out of the progressive bubble and into the community. “I think we have to appeal to common values, and displaying the US flag and the flags of the military branches helps with that.”
He notices that wearing his military hat encourages people to be more receptive to hearing his message. “They see the hat and they’ll talk to me to see how I’m involved,” he said. “It opens up a conversation and I can explain why I believe that the extremist Republicans in power now are not looking out for Vets.”
Indeed, as the national group Vote Vets has explained, the MAGA-led GOP has actively voted against veterans’ benefits.
Thank you to Bob, Bruce and all of our amazing veterans and their families for the dedication, time and service they have given for our country. May everyone have a meaningful Veterans Day.