“How are you holding up? Saw your tweet.”

I looked down at the text message on my phone. It was from Dana Balter. At the time, we were both candidates for the Democratic nomination in New York’s 24th Congressional District.

It was back in January, and the tweet she was referencing was my angry response to Donald Trump’s dismissal of the more than 100 post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnoses that had resulted from his shockingly amateur escalation of tension with Iran. Trump called PTSD “a bad headache” and, as he has done many times throughout his life, hinted that those who suffer from the disease are “weak.” As a veteran who has struggled to access mental healthcare, his words struck a nerve.

Dana’s text message to me was a private reminder of what I already knew about her: she cares. And when those in power do something wrong, she speaks up. That’s what leaders of integrity do — I know this because I put my life on the line with these kinds of leaders over the course of two combat deployments and more than a decade in uniform. Dana Balter is exactly what our district — and our country — needs in a representative.

For the past six years, we have had the opposite of that in our Congressional representative. John Katko is silent when it matters most.

Katko seems to be more interested in helping those at the top than in standing up for those in his district. Countless photo ops and press releases pay homage to his alleged “bipartisanship” -- but when it comes to actual results, he doesn’t have much to share. As a veteran and a dad who interacted with Katko on the campaign trail, I got to see a different side of the incumbent: a sneering politician more concerned with keeping his seat in Washington than serving those here in our district. Nowhere is this instinct for self-preservation more evident than in John Katko’s relationship with Donald Trump. Rather than distance himself from the president - four years after saying Trump would “never earn” his vote - John Katko chose to endorse Trump earlier this year. Since that endorsement, during the countless times that Trump has dishonored our servicemembers, veterans, and honored war dead, John Katko stayed silent.

John Katko was silent when Trump made those malicious comments about veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Dana Balter spoke up.

John Katko was silent when the Trump administration threatened to cut $22 billion from the military’s healthcare system, putting a financial burden on active servicemembers and retirees. Dana Balter spoke up.

John Katko was silent when Trump forced military servicemembers into his disastrous payroll tax deferral scheme, which will result in smaller paychecks for active and deployed servicemembers next January. Dana Balter spoke up.

John Katko was silent when Trump left more than 48,000 vacancies at the Department of Veterans Affairs, forcing veterans to wait longer foe services and keeping them from lifesaving care. He was silent when Trump attacked the collective bargaining rights of thousands of VA employees. Dana Balter spoke up.

John Katko was silent when Trump called Secretary Jim Mattis “the world’s most overrated General,” silent when Trump disgraced the service of the late Senator John McCain, and silent when Trump called our honored war dead “losers” and “suckers.” Dana Balter spoke up.

With a president who speaks so carelessly and so offensively about American servicemembers, John Katko is silent. Dana Balter speaks up.

My fellow veterans: when people like Donald Trump speak poorly of you, do you want your U.S. Representative to sit timidly on his hands and cower in silence? Or do you want a representative who will speak in defense of you, your family, and the sacrifices you’ve made?

On the ballot for Congress this November, Dana Balter is the only candidate who has spoken up about the issues veterans and military families face in Central New York. Dana Balter is the only candidate who has stood up to Donald Trump and his disgraced administration. Dana Balter is the only candidate who stands as a leader of integrity.

John Katko is silent when it comes to defending our veterans and military servicemembers. Dana Balter is not. This isn’t the only reason I’ll be voting for Dana this November but as a veteran, this one is personal.

Roger Misso is a Red Creek native, Navy veteran of two combat deployments and father of two. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Harvard Kennedy School. He currently serves as executive director of Taking the Hill, a group that describes itself as “working to elect veterans and military family members of integrity to Congress.”

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