Vets organize rally
By GEMA MARIA DUARTE
Bucks County Courier Times
Walt Rodenberger held an American flag as he stood with dozens of other supporters outside Tullytownâ€™s municipal building Tuesday night.
The group, braving frigid temperatures, gathered to oppose the councilâ€™s decision to block Councilman Joe Shellenberger from voting on borough issues while serving in Afghanistan.
"Itâ€™s just a shame that they are taking someoneâ€™s right to vote away," said Rodenberger, who served in the Army for nine years. "Itâ€™s ridiculous. Itâ€™s America. This isnâ€™t Iraq. Itâ€™s not Vietnam."
The Delaware Valley Vietnam Vets organized the rally before the eveningâ€™s council meeting to show board members "their ignorance," said Jesse E. Hill, treasurer of the organization.
Shellenberger, a 46-year-old Air Force reservist, was deployed to Afghanistan in January. He is the first active Tullytown council member to be deployed.
At the Feb. 6 municipal meeting, Councilman Ed Czyzyk made the motion to allow Shellenberger to vote while overseas. Czyzykâ€™s motion died for a lack of a second and didnâ€™t make it to the floor for discussion.
"If anybody has the right to vote, itâ€™s him," Czyzyk said. "Heâ€™s over there defending our right to vote here."
At the time of his deployment, Shellenberger, a father of two, expected to be overseas for at least three months.
In November 2006, the council said it would not fill Shellenbergerâ€™s seat while he was on military duty. In an effort to keep updated with government issues, Shellenberger has been receiving borough documents through his wife, Christine, and borough staff.
"Heâ€™s thankful for all the support that the veterans are giving him," said Christine Shellenberger, who spoke to her husband on Saturday. "Heâ€™s kind of surprised [about the councilâ€™s decision to not allow him to vote]."
Shellenberger has sent e-mails to the council requesting permission to vote, according to Ed Armstrong, a friend of the serviceman.
Shellenbergerâ€™s supporters argued that his vote could have been taken over the phone or the Internet.
Supporters made their way into the municipal building for the meeting, where public comment was limited to 45 minutes, three minutes per person.
"If the man says heâ€™s able do his job, letâ€™s give him a shot and let him do his job," John Buchanan said during the public comment. "Heâ€™s an American. I donâ€™t care what his politics are. Heâ€™s putting his life on the line for our vote, for our freedoms. Turn the vote around. Give him his vote."
Most of the audience cheered and applauded Buchanan, while raising signs that read, "We Support G.I. Joe" and "Let â€˜G.I. Joeâ€™ Vote."
But not all in attendance agreed with Shellenbergerâ€™s supporters.
Although Holly Kettler Zone and Bill Edwards, both of Tullytown, support veterans affairs and even have family members who served in the military, they sided with the councilâ€™s decision.
"[Council members] should be here to vote," Kettler Zone said.
Edwards said Shellenberger should be concentrating on his military duties in Afghanistan. Using technology to cast his vote would not work because Shellenberger would be obtaining only one side of borough issues.
"This is politics at its worst," Edwards said. "An emotional button has been touched here."
The council, which allowed all parties to comment, took no action on the issue and moved forward with other agenda items.
Gema MarÃa Duarte can be reached at 215-949-4195 or news@phillyBurbs.com