Marine Veteran Rob Riggle addresses Thousand Oaks shooting
By Neil A. Carousso, ConnectingVets.com
“Freedom is not free.”
That was the resounding theme of Rob Riggle’s speech at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Heroes Gala.
“There is nothing free about freedom and our men and women today sacrifice life and limb to protect those freedoms,” said Riggle to a room filled with veterans and service members from all branches.
Riggle retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years of service in the Marines Corps Reserve. He served in Afghanistan, earning two Meritorious Service Medals, National Defense Service Medals, the Humanitarian Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, among other decorations.
He is known for his comedic roles on The Daily Show and films such as 21 Jump Street and The Hangover. His former Daily Show colleague Stephen Colbert was a guest speaker at the gala.
Riggle spoke of his priorities for veterans while praising the IAVA for their unrelenting support of our heroes through education and legislative pursuits. He also emphasized the need for a modernization of an “antiquated” Department of Veterans Affairs system, exclaiming that in this day and age, no veteran should be unaware of the benefits they earned.
Sporting a full beard for a role in an unspecified project, Riggle addressed the Thousand Oaks, California shooting in which the alleged gunman Ian David Long was a veteran of the Marine Corps.
Riggle said it’s imperative to emphasize that a veteran carrying out a mass shooting is the exception and that vets are more likely to harm themselves than anyone else. He called on more mental health awareness and resources to reduce the average of 22 veteran suicides a day.
“There’s a reason I get teary-eyed when I hear the National Anthem. It’s my home. I love my home,” said Riggle. He called for unity around core values at a time when partisans use events to fit their agendas.
“Our Constitutional rights – be it freedom of religion or speech or due process – we all still enjoy it today hundreds of years later because of what those brave Americans did in their time and what millions of brave Americans are doing right now in their time,” Riggle said.