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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Marine joins Leming on campaign trail

Friday, June 11, 2010

Congressional candidate Ben Leming of Murfreesboro and retired general John Castellaw visited the Shelbyville square on Thursday as part of Leming's congressional campaign.
(T-G Photo by John I. Carney) [Order this photo]
Retired Marine John Castellaw visited Shelbyville on Thursday to campaign with Ben Leming, a Democratic candidate for the Sixth District U.S. House seat who is also a former active duty Marine.

Before retiring two years ago, Castellaw served as what he described as the chief financial officer for the Marine Corps. He had also been chief of staff for U.S. Central Command and commanded U.S. operations in East Timor in 1999-2000.

Leming and Castellaw held a campaign event Thursday morning at WRL Market on the square.

"We've got to make some wise decisions in Congress," said Castellaw, who said the challenge will be how to wind down U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan without allowing the military to decline the way it did following the Vietnam War.

"We need to be very judicious in terms of what we do with the nation's finances," Castellaw added.

Castellaw also said America needs to end its dependence on foreign oil, a theme Leming himself echoed later.

"It is high time we get off our addiction to foreign oil," said Leming.

Castellaw called Leming "a leader of proven performance" capable of meeting the challenges.

Leming, who is now a captain in the Marine Corps Reserves, recalled growing up in Murfreesboro, wrestling and throwing the discus at Oakland High School, and talking to recruiters from various branches of the armed forces.

"Son, if you're going to be a bear, be a grizzly," the Marine Corps recruiter told him, and Leming was convinced. Leming met his wife Sarah, who was also a Marine, while a student at the U.S. Naval Academy. In 2003, Ben Leming's squadron was deployed to Iraq, and he found out just as he was about to leave that she was pregnant.

While in Iraq, Leming flew medical and casualty evacuations, some while under fire. He later transferred into military intelligence, which he said has given him a better understanding of America's enemies.

"I understand exactly who we're fighting," said Leming.

But he said he also gained a deeper appreciation for the other nations and cultures with which America must do business and said keeping good relations "should always be our first option."

Six months after his return from deployment as an intelligence officer, he discovered that Sarah had breast cancer. Leming praised the military's TriCare health care system and said that Sarah got outstanding care. But he said her illness gave the couple a greater appreciation of the need for medical care and a greater sympathy for those who lack it.

Leming praised the recent health care reform bill.

"There are lots of things in that bill that are going to benefit lots of folks," he said, "if they look past the misinformation." But he said the bill was a reform of the health insurance program and didn't address the underlying problem of high health care costs.

"The health care bill was a foot in the door," said Leming.

Leming said his status as a veteran and his experience dealing with the Veterans Administration would help him ensure that veterans are fairly treated and properly cared for.

As a result of his wife's cancer, Leming took the opportunity to earn his master's at the University of Maryland so that he could teach at Annapolis. Leming noted that the four years he spent teaching at Annapolis did not count towards military retirement, so he is not actually retired, just honorably discharged. He remains a captain in the reserves, and Sarah -- who is now cancer-free -- is a major in the reserves.

Leming said he does not favor amnesty for illegal immigrants but said there needs to be some way to allow them to work towards legalizing their status. He also said it's unfair to confuse the immigrants who engage in criminal behavior with those who are only here to make a better life for their families. He said companies must be compelled to pay a fair wage for work and that Americans could, if fairly compensated, do some of the jobs which, according to conventional wisdom, only immigrants are willing to do.

Castellaw grew up in Alamo, Tenn., and attended the University of Tennessee at Martin. He said his family had Tennessee Walking Horses on the farm when he was growing up, but this was his first visit to Shelbyville.

The Sixth District house seat is being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, the longest-serving member of Tennessee's congressional delegation, who is not running for re-election.

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