He Isn’t Just a Name — He Has a Family
When I heard the ad sponsored by Americas PAC on the radio last Friday, talking about the 3 disabled veterans that had died at the Tomah VA, I knew exactly who they were talking about. My father, Thomas Baer, and also Jason Simcakoski and Jason Ward.
Did you ever fall when you were a child and have the wind knocked out of you? That feeling like you will never breathe again — that’s the feeling I had when I heard that ad. First I felt shock, then horrible sadness because I still miss my dad very much, but then I felt outrage because this isn’t the first time my father or our family — or the other families — have been used as pawns in political games without our permission.
I gave them the benefit of the doubt and thought “maybe I’m wrong, maybe they are talking about someone else”. Then I received a copy of the press release and it confirmed what I already knew, they were in fact talking about my dad.
I got a list of radio stations and emailed the 11 on the list, asking them to remove the ad and explaining the trauma is causes our family to hear it. Two stations have replied since Friday. The first, WHBY, sent their condolences and said they had already removed the ad, but then today stated that they have started running a “revised version”. The other, Milwaukee Radio Group, refused immediately.
I don’t expect them to understand my pain. They weren’t there. They didn’t see my father slumped in a wheelchair, they didn’t see him on the floor with a nurse trying to hold him up while he was unresponsive. They didn’t follow the ambulance to Lacrosse and sit holding his hand for two days. They didn’t have to make the decision after we were told nothing could be done, that the VA had wasted too much time, to remove the machines that were keeping my father alive. They were not there as he took his last breath. But I was, along with my mother and my husband. They also didn’t have to tell my 10 yr old step-son that his grandpa was gone.
What I do expect is some morality and respect. We want to grieve and move on. I started a memorial in my father’s name to keep his memory alive and to help other veterans, but that is not what Americas PAC or these radio stations are doing. They are not helping veterans, they have their own agendas. Americas PAC’s is political and the radio stations that refuse to remove the ad have a financial motivation to keep it running. $650,000 is a lot of money to spend on an ad. $650,000 could also help a lot of veterans — the people these groups claim to care about.
Below you will find the email exchange with Milwaukee Radio Group:
Re: Radio Ad
Today, 11:11 AM
Annmarie Topel (firstname.lastname@example.org);
I have attempted to reach them. They conveniently make themselves unavailable. It is a travesty that they are willing to spend $650,000 and reopen the wounds of 3 families on an attack ad. That much could be much better spent actually helping veterans — the people they claim to care about.
— — — — Original message — — — —
From: Annmarie Topel <email@example.com>
Date: 5/1/17 11:06 AM (GMT-06:00)
To: Candace Baer
Subject: RE: Radio Ad
I assure you that we did due diligence and found that all claims were properly sourced. The news clip referring to deaths was specifically sourced to a local TV station. I highly recommend that you contact America’s PAC as they are the writer and producer of the spot and can better answer your questions and address your concerns.
From: Candace Baer
Sent: Monday, May 01, 2017 9:34 AM
To: Annmarie Topel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Radio Ad
Actually, you must not have done your due diligence, because Tammy Baldwin had nothing to do with my father’s death. My father’s death was related to the poor functionality and the negligence of the urgent care portion of the facility and had nothing to do with the opioid situation or the inpatient care unit. Additionally, he did not die at the facility, he died at Gunderson hospital in Lacrosse.
I would again ask that you discontinue the airing of the ad out of respect not only for my family, but of the other two families involved. It is no secret to anyone who the ad is eluding to and we do not need to continue to have this trauma brought up over and over again and used as a tool by politicians on any side or by the media for attention and ratings.
I am very sorry for your loss and the trauma that you and your family have gone through.
I can appreciate that reminders are very difficult to cope with.
As a broadcast organization, we take our responsibility in auditing the accuracy of advertisements very seriously. Though we did not write nor produce this ad and take no position on the contents, we did our due diligence in confirming the claims and accuracy of it. Please note that we understand there was a press release containing names of veterans alluded to in the ad, but those names were not contained within the commercials airing on our stations.
We are dedicated to protecting freedom of speech and allowing fair access to our stations. It’s imperative, as a broadcast organization, that we maintain a neutral point of view and are cautious not to engage in censorship of news, advertising nor programming content.
I would recommend contacting America’s PAC with your concerns as they are responsible for the content of the ads. Their contact information is listed on their website at Americaspac527.com.
Thank you for reaching out, and our sympathies to you and your family.
President & General Manager
Milwaukee Radio Group
From: Candace Baer
Sent: Friday, April 28, 2017 9:20 PM
To: Annmarie Topel <email@example.com>; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Don.Pollnow@cumulus.com; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Radio Ad
I recently heard a radio ad that was paid for by Americas PAC referencing 3 disabled veterans who died as a result of events that occurred at the Tomah VA. According to Americas PAC press release, one of those veterans was my father, Thomas Baer. It is bad enough that we have to live with the loss every day of our lives, but it is reprehensible that his death be exploited for political purposes — especially without our permission, which they do not have. I would respectfully ask that you discontinue running the ad as it continues to reopen a very painful wound and bring up awful memories for us every time we hear it. Our family has been traumatized enough already.
I would appreciate a response to this email. I am a proponent and supporter of free speech, but I do not support exploitation of grieving families for political gain. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
All of us as citizens should be outraged, regardless of what side of the political aisle you stand on, at anyone who uses the families of veterans as nothing more than fodder for those attacks. When you hear these ads, remember this — they aren’t just “disabled veterans”. They have families. Families who love them and still grieve and cry every single day.