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HomeNewsLocal newsPlaskett Makes Case for the Vote at Veterans Day Ceremony

Plaskett Makes Case for the Vote at Veterans Day Ceremony

V.I. Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett used her platform as speaker at this year’s St. Thomas Veterans Day ceremony on Wednesday to continue raising the issue of Virgin Islanders’ lack of voting rights in U.S. presidential elections.

Plaskett began raising the issue in Congress shortly after taking office this year and often speaks on the subject when at events in the territory.

Addressing a crowd gathered in Roosevelt Park, including many veterans, Plaskett framed the extension of full voting rights to U.S. territories, including the USVI, as a moral obligation for the nation. Many residents of U.S. territories serve in the armed forces and see active duty but cannot vote for president, she said. 

“Virgin Islanders have long been among the first to answer America’s call to duty,” said Plaskett. “In some cases even fighting in defense of this great nation before individuals were a part of this nation.”

“It is a fact that servicemen and women from our territory play an integral role in America’s present day military readiness,” she continued. “Yet today our men and women deployed and engaged in theatre cannot vote for the commander in chief, their president, who ultimately makes the decision to send them to war.”

Plaskett said the Virgin Islands has a greater per capita population of veterans than many jurisdictions under the U.S. flag, and yet the territory’s veterans sometimes face challenges in accessing the same benefits extended to other veterans due to the territory’s political status. She called this “inexcusable.”

Plaskett said this week her office worked with veterans’ organizations and the V.I. League of Women Voters to file a federal class action lawsuit, along with plaintiffs in Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa, to access voting rights for U.S. citizens in the territories.

According to Sen. Justin Harrigan, who also made remarks at Wednesday’s ceremony, there are more than 5,000 veterans living in the Virgin Islands. Harrigan is the chairman of the Legislature’s Government Services, Consumer and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The keynote speaker at Wednesday’s ceremony was Davis Celestine Sr., a Virgin Islander who is president of the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Florida Gulf Coast Chapter. Celestine, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, suffered an injury that left him quadriplegic in 2001. Despite his injury, he recently reinstated his pilot’s license.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp and Director of V.I. Office of Veterans Affairs Patrick Farrell also spoke at the ceremony. Irma George, American Legion District 10 service officer, acted as mistress of ceremony.

Preceding the ceremony in Roosevelt Park was a parade of servicemen and women, ROTC groups and musicians whose military cadences echoes down the streets of Charlotte Amalie.

Leading the parade were Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter, Plaskett, Adjutant General of the V.I. National Guard Deborah Howell and Harrigan. They were followed by parade marshal Joel Clement Gifft, a veteran of the Vietnam War.

Members of the V.I. National Guard, the Charlotte Amalie High School JROTC, the Eudora Kean High School JROTC, and marching bands from both schools made their way from Addelita Cancryn Junior High School to Roosevelt Park late Wednesday afternoon.

Also marching were the St. Thomas Majorettes, the St. Thomas/St. John Seventh-Day Adventist Pathfinders, The St. Thomas Civil Air Patrol and members of the British Virgin Islands’ Royal Virgin Islands Police Force.

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