For the 200 guests of the Mighty Oaks Warrior Foundation's annual gala, headliner Sarah Palin was a sparkly distraction from the stark statistics of soaring depression, suicide and homelessness among veterans -- problems the charity aims to defeat.
The former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate was her usual charming self, speaking as an American mom rather than a politician at the Mighty Oaks' fundraiser in a Spring church on Friday. Organizers invited Palin to "shoot from the heart," and she rose to the challenge with a speech replete with references to the exemplary patriotism of Duck Dynasty's Uncle Si and the "bullshit" that is global warming.
The point, of course, was to coax sponsors to cut checks. Mighty Oaks Warrior Foundation is a faith-based nonprofit that employs veterans to counsel other veterans at reintegration ranches scattered throughout the country. Since its founding 2011, Mighty Oaks has graduated about 450 military men and women with zero suicides. The national stat for suicide among veterans is 23 a day.
Despite apologizing for getting political in church, Palin couldn't help cracking a few jokes about Democratic stupidity and praising Texas' love of guns.
"Every time I come to this state, I think 'Yeah, I'm going out among a bunch of wingers and clingers, a bunch of good folks proudly clinging to their guns, their God and their Constitution,'" Palin said. "It amazes me that our president condemns us. I wanna ask him someday, 'President Obama, uh, you know those crazy radical Muslim terrorists over there? When are you gonna tell them to quit clinging to their guns and religion?'"
We presume the underlying message is that Americans should support the troops. Palin is a proud military mom after all, and had repeatedly referenced the time and location of her son Track's deployment to Iraq in 2008 while on the campaign trail. It was a move that stirred some concern from veteran associations, who worried that the younger Palin would be placed at unnecessary risk.
Palin said her son also enrolled in Mighty Oaks Warrior programs after his return to the States. Studies have found that about 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets suffer from PTSD, and only half seek treatment. Divorce rates among veterans is about 80 percent, and Veterans Affairs estimates that veterans comprise about 12 percent of the nation's adult homeless population.
It's a dark outlook, but Palin certainly tried her best to lighten the mood.
"What does a liberal and a beer bottle have in common?" she joked in reference to President Barack Obama's response to the threat of ISIS in the Middle East. "They're both empty from the neck up!"