Photo by Bill Perry/Vietnam veteran

While the media has been busy chasing Joe the Plumber, it has ignored Nick Morgan, a 24-year-old veteran from the Iraq war who was trampled by police horses outside the presidential debate Wednesday night.

Morgan was among at least 14 members of Iraq Veterans Against the War who were trying to get into the debate to ask the candidates where they stood on veterans issues. They’ve been trying to meet the candidates since the conventions with no luck.

On Wednesday, mounted police officers on horseback forced the protesters back, knocking several to the ground, including Morgan, who was rushed to the hospital with a broken cheekbone.

However, one witness told Newsday – the only mainstream newspaper that appears to be covering this incident – that Morgan was already standing on the sidewalk, which is where police ordered the protesters to stand.

A witness who also was arrested, Kristofer Goldsmith of North Bellmore, said Morgan had obeyed a police order to return to the sidewalk when he was trampled.

“Stampeding a horse onto the sidewalk . . . is disturbing,” said Goldsmith, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “The order was to stand on the sidewalk and that’s where my friend got hurt.”

According to IVAW, the veteran activist group had sent a message to debate moderator Bob Schieffer requesting permission to present their questions to the candidates during the debate, but their message was ignored.

One hour before the final presidential debate of the 2008 campaign, fourteen members of IVAW marched in formation to Hofstra University to present questions for the candidates. IVAW had requested permission from debate moderator Bob Schieffer to ask their questions during the debate but got no response.

The contingent of veterans in dress uniforms and combat uniforms attempted to enter the building where the debate was to be held in order to ask their questions but were turned back by police. The IVAW members at the front of the formation were immediately arrested, and others were pushed back into the crowd by police on horseback. Several members were injured, including former Army Sergeant Nick Morgan who suffered a broken cheekbone when he was trampled by police horses before being arrested.

The veterans were among several other groups of protesters, including Code Pink, who were standing outside the debates, but they appear to be the only protesters arrested, which is an extremely newsworthy item.

However, the only news organizations reporting on this story besides Newsday are independent media Websites, including Democracy Now and OpEdNews.

It was no different last month when IVAW member Adam Kokesh had sneaked into the Republican National Convention to hold up a sign stating that “McCain Votes Against Vets”, only to get kicked out.

Whether you agree with IVAW methods or not, we should expect, encourage and demand that our candidates give these veterans the courtesy to address their concerns and questions. After all, these veterans were shipped to Iraq to fight an illegal war, which most politicians supported at the time, even though they now admit it was a mistake.

McCain and Obama should have welcomed the group with open arms and perhaps even used some of them as props during the debate.

Instead of Joe the Plumber, we could have had Nick the Wounded Soldier explaining how he will now have to struggle with healthcare because cutbacks to veteran services has put them on the back burner. Especially considering that his fractured cheekbone was not received on the battlefield.

But all they did was kick him in the face with a horse for demonstrating his First Amendment rights.

And that’s worse than spitting on a veteran.