Rally Point

Five Tasks to Unite the Country and Revitalize the American Dream


By Chris Gibson

Read by Chris Gibson

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A smart and surprising political inventory for how America can reunite and revitalize in a time of crisis.

Written by an admired leader of the Republican party, Rally Point: Five Tasks to Unite the Country and Revitalize the American Dream looks past the 2016 election, past the finger pointing and conventional political thinking, to focus on clear, primary principles that conservatives must debate and defend to protect the future of America.

Raised in a working-class family in upstate New York, the first in his family to go to college, paid for in part by his service in the National Guard, Chris Gibson rose from Private to Colonel in the Army, including combat command in the storied 82nd Airborne Division. RALLY POINT is his story: what he’s learned from the “School of Hard Knocks” and how he’s applied those precious life lessons during his service in Iraq and in Congress.

Drawn from a deep appreciation of history and American exceptionalism, Gibson provides incisive and frank analysis of the current political environment, including President Trump, and provides a roadmap based on time-tested Founding principles to help unite our country and revitalize the American Dream. RALLY POINT is a thoughtful, compelling, enjoyable read – a must for serious-minded Americans looking for answers in this challenging political environment.



Gibson in Baghdad, Iraq, serving as Commander of the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne, in December 2004.

For the majority of Americans, the 2016 presidential campaign was not a positive experience. Both major candidates were deeply unpopular, with unfavorable ratings well above 50 percent. That is unprecedented in American politics. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were widely viewed as divisive and dismissive of large swaths of the electorate. Given the results of this election, Americans are deeply divided and uncertain about the direction of the country and wonder whether we can come together to tackle our significant challenges.

Donald Trump won the presidency, and for conservatives that presents opportunities and challenges. First, however, we must recognize this stark reality: We are not only a nation divided—as Republicans we are also a party divided. I am not interested in pointing fingers and assigning blame. The purpose of this book is to unify and grow our conservative ranks so that we rally the nation around our principles, consistently win elections, and earn the trust of the American people to stay the course with our solutions.

The United States was an exceptional nation at birth, different from the rest of the world because we believed in God-given natural rights and were bold enough to establish a government that protected those rights with the citizen in charge. Today we are still that exceptional nation, and I am confident that if we find our voice and rally the American people, we will bring forward the solutions required to restore the American dream and revitalize our republic. The key is focus, and for that we need leadership.

As conservatives, we must lay out a positive vision for America. That plan must accomplish five essential tasks:

•  Strengthen our national security

•  Restore founding principles

•  Promote a flourishing life

•  Keep faith

•  Unify and grow the movement

Over the next five chapters, I address those challenges. In chapter one, I make the case for a “peace through strength” grand strategy that restores deterrence, defeats terrorists, and advances U.S. interests through diplomacy and a thriving economy. In chapter two, I define the “Spirit of Philadelphia” demonstrating how that founding and its covenants and compromises helped facilitate peace and prosperity at home and eventually elevated us to a world superpower. I also show how deviating from founding principles over time caused significant challenges and national disunity, before concluding with recommendations for revitalizing our democracy. In chapter three, I lay out a plan to unleash economic growth so that all Americans can enjoy the American Dream. In chapter four, I explain why keeping faith in God, ourselves, our family, friends, and community is so central to a flourishing American future. Chapter five provides a political blueprint for unifying and growing the conservative movement so that we can rally and lift up the country. I conclude the book with analysis of the 2016 presidential election, President Trump, and the future of the GOP, invoking our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, to tackle the formidable challenges ahead.

We are all products of our experiences. I am no different. This book reflects over fifty years of experience from the “School of Hard Knocks.” I grew up in a working-class family in upstate New York, the oldest of a family of four children raised in the Irish Catholic tradition. Not surprisingly given our background, my parents were Democrats. All of our family had been Democrats since arriving from the old country—I was the first Republican, for reasons I will explain later.

I enlisted as a private in the infantry of the New York Army National Guard in 1981 at the age of seventeen, motivated to protect and defend this cherished way of life. I made the transition from enlisted man to officer through the ROTC program at nearby Siena College (a small Catholic college), and went on to serve twenty-four more years in the regular Army. Like nearly everyone in the military over that period, I served multiple combat tours (four to be exact) in the Middle East, a NATO peace enforcement deployment in the Balkans, a humanitarian relief operation in Haiti, and a counterdrug operation in the southwestern United States.

Two great Americans, battle-hardened paratroopers Sergeant Chris Pusateri and Staff Sergeant Zachary Wobler, were killed in Iraq while serving under my command in the 82nd Airborne Division. I will tell their story of courage and sacrifice in these pages. Dozens more were wounded in action, including some grievously. I was wounded myself (fortunately not seriously) while leading these brave paratroopers. Like our brothers and sisters before us in previous wars, none of us who served over there came home the same person. We were fundamentally changed by these experiences. Our country is still coming to grips with this reality in the midst of extensive efforts to help our veterans make the transition.

In some ways, my military experience reinforced who I was from childhood. I am deeply spiritual and reflective. I believe fervently in American exceptionalism, and I remain grateful—thankful that I was born American. I feel as if I won the lottery, by birthright a recipient of the American dream. I have lived that dream.

My combat experience also informed, and significantly influenced, my actions for six years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Throughout that time I was a committed and passionate voice for reform. I am not wearing rose-tinted glasses. I see the problems that exist in our country today. As a U.S. representative, I listened carefully to my constituents. I understand their concerns and know their deep desire for change. Many Americans feel that our political system is rigged for moneyed interests and those with political connections to the nation’s elite. Ordinary American citizens believe this system no longer works for them. They are right. It is past time to “drain the swamp.”

We must fight for change that restores founding principles and promotes a flourishing life for all Americans. I’ve written this book to help in that cause, explaining how we can promote and secure liberty and reform the economy so that it works for everyone, including working-class families like the one I grew up in.

Influenced by the Founders, I’m a strong believer in a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” We were never intended to have a permanent political class. Accordingly, I self-imposed term limits and recently completed my time in Congress. Still, I remain passionate about our nation and want to help us find our voice to rally this great nation so that the twenty-first century is our best century yet. Toward that end, I appreciate your willingness to read this book and hope that you will keep faith in our exceptional way of life and join me in fighting for this worthy cause.

Chris Gibson

Kinderhook, New York

June 1, 2017


Practice Peace through Strength

The High Personal Cost of Freedom

In many ways, Army sergeant Chris Pusateri was a typical paratrooper. An adventurous, avid outdoorsman from upstate New York, Chris exuded confidence, competence, and enjoyed life. He was a good soldier.

As a battalion commander in the 82nd Airborne Division, I had approximately nine hundred of these dedicated Americans organized under my charge in Iraq. I became acquainted with Chris in the fall of 2004 as our battalion was intensively training for possible deployment to Iraq when we assumed Division Ready Force (DRF) status around Thanksgiving. Chris walked up to me in the chow hall one day to ask about my earlier experiences in the 10th Mountain Division, a unit stationed at Fort Drum near Watertown, New York, approximately three hours from Chris’s hometown of Painted Post. Chris was interested in being posted closer to home where he could hunt and fish with his high school buddies on weekends. He knew that I had served with the 10th Mountain Division from 2000 to 2002 and wanted my advice on whether he should reenlist in the Army after his initial term ended in less than a year.

I was struck by the careful manner in which Pusateri approached me. Like all Army units, the 82nd Airborne Division placed command emphasis and great pride in seeing their soldiers reenlist for “present duty station.” Indeed, “Stay 82nd” paraphernalia (shirts, fleeces, pens, notebooks, and so on) was replete in all local reenlistment offices up and down Ardennes Street at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where battalions of that storied unit maintain barracks to this day. The intent was clear—persuade paratroopers to remain in the division.

Chris was no doubt aware of that pressure. After he broached the topic of a possible reenlistment option of assignment at Fort Drum, he quickly stated, “Is that disloyal, sir?” I assured him it was not. While I certainly welcomed his reenlistment with our unit, for the bigger picture of an Army at war, what was most important was that we kept him in boots. I then told him about the 10th Mountain Division—it was a tremendous place to serve. Living in the “North Country” of upstate New York was also an immensely enjoyable experience for a person raised in that state, and an experience we shared. Shortly after that, Pusateri reenlisted for Fort Drum and the Army put in motion the orders that would return him to New York early in the coming year.

That was early November 2004. Things change rapidly in the 82nd Airborne Division. Right after Thanksgiving, our battalion was alerted for immediate deployment to Iraq to reinforce “Route Irish,” the highway between the Baghdad airport and the Green Zone, the center of government. That area was the scene of dozens of insurgent vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks. Senior military leaders in Iraq, including the local brigade commander, Colonel Mark Milley (now General Milley, the chief of staff of the Army), and at the Pentagon were intent on defeating these deadly insurgent cells so that the first-ever free elections in Iraq could be conducted safely at the end of January.

Within twenty-four hours of alert notification, our first element was en route to Iraq. The outload of the Division Ready Force can be a very challenging and stressful experience. The logistics plan is ambitious, with little margin for delay or error. As boxes and pallets are prepared and sent to the airfield for overseas movement, paratroopers go through final medical and personnel screening (updating shots and legal documents as necessary), and leaders begin an intensive planning phase for operations. It is a hectic environment to say the least. In that frenzy, I received word through Pusateri’s company commander, Captain Joe Blanton, and First Sergeant Greg Nowak that Chris wanted to tear up his reenlistment contract so he could deploy to Iraq with his fellow paratroopers. He did not think it was right for his friends to go forward into combat while he stayed behind so he could transfer stations to Fort Drum.

This was a serious request. As busy as we were, it was important to get that decision right. I asked my command sergeant major, Richard Flowers, a charismatic leader from Brooklyn, New York, to assemble the entire chain of command, including Pusateri, so that we could talk directly with him and hear from his frontline supervisors. Two hours later we assembled in my office. Pusateri once again impressed me. He communicated very clearly, respectfully, and decisively that it was his strongest desire to deploy with us, and that he wanted his reenlistment papers torn up or deferred. His chain of command was unanimous in support. I approved the action. It was done—Pusateri would deploy with us, and upon our return he would report to Fort Drum.

“Pusa,” as he was affectionately known to his fellow paratroopers of Delta Company, was always there for his buddies, and his last day on earth was no different. It was February 16, 2005, and we were in Mosul, northern Iraq. After serving for about a month securing Route Irish in Baghdad, we had been sent with no notice to reinforce Mosul after the deadly mess hall bombing there just before Christmas. Throughout our time there, our battalion was in constant combat with determined insurgent cells.

In the early morning hours of that fated day, Sergeant Pusateri finished an all-night shift standing security watch on the third floor of a three-story building on the eastern side of the Tigris River and at about 6:00 a.m. was settling in with his sleeping bag for some much-needed rest. At roughly 6:30 a.m., a major gunfight broke out. At that point, Chris could have stayed in his sleeping bag, because we had enough firepower at the site to defeat the enemy attack. Paratroopers, however, are known for their initiative, and instead, Sergeant Pusateri sprang into action, putting on his battle gear and moving to a position on the roof to help secure the flank of one of his buddies. During this gunfight, the enemy was firing an RPK machine gun with armor-piercing incendiary rounds, and they penetrated the concrete wall protecting Pusateri. One round hit the butt of his rifle and ricocheted, making contact with Pusateri’s jaw before moving to the back of his skull.

We did everything we could. Chris was treated by our medics and quickly moved to the Mosul Field Hospital, where he was stabilized and prepared for helicopter transport to Balad—the highest level of medical care in theater. We needed to move him there because unless he could undergo an advanced medical procedure to temporarily remove part of his skull to allow room for the brain to swell and then naturally retract after treatment and time, he could not survive. Our medical professionals swiftly stabilized Chris and he was placed on the helicopter.

Tragically, Pusateri died of his wounds while in the air.

The next day, as I prepared for his memorial ceremony, I learned that Sergeant Chris Pusateri had been born on the Fourth of July (1983). That struck me as apt—he was red, white, and blue to the core.

Where do we find soldiers like these?

Staff Sergeant Zachary Wobler was a natural leader, well known and admired throughout our battalion. Deadly accurate with a rifle, he may have been our best sniper. Among his many talents, he was also a gifted guitar player and wrote interesting, funny (and sometimes colorful) songs, which our paratroopers loved. His wit was as lethal as his marksmanship—no one in the chain of command was safe from his hijinks and irreverent limericks.

Born in Snowflake, Virginia, before moving with his father to Ohio for high school, Zach possessed a strong intellect. I’m convinced he could have attended one of our nation’s best colleges. He chose to enlist in the Army instead. In 2002, he was chosen over more than fifteen thousand talented others as the 82nd Airborne Division’s “Paratrooper of the Year.” At the ceremony in his honor, when he was interviewed by the local paper, the Fayetteville Observer, about this high achievement, Zach credited his father, who Wobler said “was big on honesty. That’s one thing that was drilled into our family when I was young.” When asked about the ongoing war and his thoughts on potential deployment, Wobler stated that “nobody knows ’til it comes down to it whether you are ready or not.” The next February he found out. He deployed and took part in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. His performance was exemplary. He rose quickly within the ranks. During our deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom II, he was already a staff sergeant and held the important responsibilities of scout sniper team leader attached to our Charlie Company.

Through the hard work of Wobler and all of our paratroopers, Mosul stabilized and the election came off safely. The city’s residents turned out in large numbers to participate in their future. Watching the Iraqis stand up to Al Qaeda was a powerfully emotional experience. Al Qaeda had threatened to kill those who voted. The Iraqi people are proud and courageous, and that threat inspired many to vote who might not have otherwise participated. To reduce potential voter fraud, the Iraqi government decided to have all voters dip a finger in purple ink after voting so that individuals would be deterred from trying to vote twice. Little did they know that this requirement would provide the opportunity for Iraqis to visibly spurn Al Qaeda, proudly displaying their colorful, visible sign for democratic participation at post-election rallies and photo opportunities. It gave new meaning to giving terrorists the finger.

Shortly thereafter, our brigade commander, Colonel (now four-star general) Bob Brown repositioned our battalion to help set the conditions of success for the newly elected Iraqi government preparing to take charge. Mosul’s streets were still very dangerous, and at six foot five, Brown was a towering presence who inspired them in a way that reminded me of President Lincoln, who at six-four also stood out as he walked unsafe streets during the Civil War. Brown was a former Army basketball player under legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, a West Point graduate himself who in the late 1970s managed the West Point squad. Brown maintained his relationship with Coach K over the years, and that Christmas, Krzyzewski sent more than five thousand care packages to Mosul for all of his former player’s soldiers. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make a big difference. That gesture engendered tremendous goodwill and lifted all of our spirits during a difficult time. Meanwhile, the enemy, still reeling from our victory over them in January’s battles, continued to aggressively attack in an effort to regain the initiative. These actions took a toll on us, including on February 6, 2005, the day we lost Staff Sergeant Zachary Wobler.

That day began well. Wobler’s sniper team, from a covered and concealed overwatch position they had established the previous night, surprised a pair of insurgents attempting to emplace improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on one of the main roads in east Mosul. Wobler and his team shot them both at a distance of about two hundred meters, immediately killing one and wounding the second.

According to the protocols of the Geneva Convention and the Law of Land Warfare, once an enemy soldier is incapacitated from wounds, he is no longer a combatant, and, seeing the wounded enemy crawling on the ground, Wobler’s team moved from their positions toward the insurgent. When they got to him, it was clear he was badly wounded. They moved him off the road to an alley for treatment. At that point, a vehicle containing what we believe was the IED team’s security force drove by at a high rate of speed down the road. When they were perpendicular with the alley where Wobler and his team were performing first aid on the wounded enemy soldier, two insurgents inside the vehicle delivered a burst of AK-47 rounds. One of those rounds hit Staff Sergeant Wobler in the side (missing both the front and back body armor plates that could have saved his life), severely damaging internal organs. As his paratrooper buddies began to perform first aid on him, Wobler insisted he not be evacuated. He wanted to remain on the battlefield leading his paratroopers. Despite his protestations, the Charlie Company first sergeant quickly overruled him and ordered his immediate evacuation to the Mosul Field Hospital. The doctors there did all they could for Wobler, but in the end he died of his wounds.

In the attempt to save the life of an enemy soldier, Staff Sergeant Zachary Wobler lost his own. Like those of Pusateri, Wobler’s actions were courageous and selfless. It is important to tell their stories so that all Americans can appreciate their sacrifices.

In the days that followed, our battalion was able to kill the insurgents who took Wobler’s and Pusateri’s lives. Through a series of effective counterinsurgent operations in February and March 2005, we destroyed that enemy cell and stabilized our zone of Mosul. It came at a high price—our battalion had two killed in action (Pusateri and Wobler) and thirty-one wounded in action.

I will never forget those days in Iraq. Whenever I hear someone say, “Freedom isn’t free,” I think of Pusateri and Wobler. These young men lived their lives with integrity, dedicated to a cause greater than themselves. In their loss, they left holes in their families that will never be filled. Wobler left behind a beautiful baby girl, Trinity—barely three years old when her father was killed in action. In 2017, she will be fifteen years old, but her dad will not get to see her attend the high school prom, will not get the opportunity to walk her down the aisle someday.

Over time, I got to know Zach’s mom, Jeanette Poston, and stepdad, Tim, as they were gracious enough to attend our memorial ceremonies and 82nd Airborne Division reunion events held annually during the last week of May. I first met them the day we got back from Iraq, although I was unaware that they had traveled to Fort Bragg to greet us. An amazing, selfless couple, they thought it was important to be there to welcome home all of Zach’s buddies returning from war.

I had just dismissed the formation so that my paratroopers and I could enjoy the reunion celebration among our family and friends when Jeanette walked up. I was surprised and speechless, unable to find the right words to express my sorrow. I just hugged her while we both teared up. I was struck by her generosity and remarkable courage. She had lost her son to this war such a short time before, and now she was standing there among all the families to welcome the rest of us home. She could tell how badly I felt and sensed my awkwardness, reaching for my hand to reassure me. That kindness in the face of such personal sorrow was unbelievable. I wondered if I could do the same confronted with that tragedy. In that moment, I learned from Jeanette a lifetime’s worth of grace and magnanimity. I’ve periodically stayed in touch with the Postons over the years and have greatly appreciated their encouragement for my congressional service. They are strong patriots who fiercely believe in this cherished way of life.

Similarly, I remember one of Pusateri’s family members, a very young boy about seven years old, crying at the memorial ceremony we had for both of our fallen heroes at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina, later in the summer of 2005. It was a surreal experience—an entire formation of hardened paratroopers standing at rigid attention as we honored Pusateri, and when this boy cried, there seemed like nothing in the world that could fix that or even make it better for him. Pusateri’s widow, Christine, only nineteen years old, was understandably overwhelmed by the whole ordeal.

Sometimes fate works in ways beyond our comprehension. The Pusateris’ family dog had just given birth to several very excitable young pups craving attention. This proved especially challenging for Christine. My wife, Mary Jo, and our executive officer Major Peter Wilhelm’s wife, Erica, stepped in to help. We each adopted one of those puppies. Today, we still have Falcon (we called him that in honor of our brigade, which carries “Falcon” as its nickname), and every time I look at him, I’m reminded of Chris and the heavy price of freedom.

In the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to visit Pusateri’s grave. Many emotions came flooding back while I was kneeling at the gravesite. I reflected on all that had changed since the fateful day in February 2005, and wondered where Pusateri would have been today if he were still alive. Ultimately, I couldn’t escape the painful sadness. Before I departed, I left one of my congressional coins on Chris’s headstone. Shortly thereafter, his widow, Christine, posted on my congressional Facebook page expressing gratitude for the coin. I sent a private message in response and we subsequently had a nice phone conversation. It was great to be back in contact and to learn she was well. I stayed in touch with Chris’s mom, Brenda West, for a number of years too, including exchanging emails on the anniversary of losing Chris. I always appreciated her strength and stoicism. We must always remember these heroes and honor their families’ sacrifices on behalf of all of us.

I share these stories for two reasons. First, to personalize the stark reality that there is a high cost associated with the use of force. Accordingly, it is paramount that policymakers know what they are doing. These decisions require careful examination and consideration. It is wrong when political leaders make glib statements about impending military operations without really understanding the nature of warfare and the consequences of their words. War is always hard. It is sometimes necessary but should always be a last resort. Political leaders need to listen carefully to those with experience. Military leaders owe their civilian bosses candid assessments—information, analysis, and advice. Policymakers ignore their input at peril. The lives of Americans like Pusateri and Wobler, and countless others, are on the line. We must get these decisions right.

The second reason I share these stories is to communicate how these heartbreaking experiences have affected me. My duty in Iraq has changed me in many ways, both personally and professionally. I am more in touch with my emotions. I am more present in the moment and strengthened in my faith. I am also more methodical in my personal decision making. Professionally, I am more tempered in my views regarding the use of military force.

The Social Contract

To be clear, these experiences did not make me a pacifist. We must defend our freedom. I am a realist, grounded with a deep appreciation for history, which informs me that the best way to keep the peace while preserving our liberty is to deter potential adversaries with strong military preparation. As English philosopher Edmund Burke once stated, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil in the world is for good men to do nothing.”

Society forms to provide for security. Enlightenment philosophers Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Locke all waxed eloquent on the “social contract,” stating that the reason man leaves the state of nature and volitionally enters into civil society is to reduce vulnerability. There also is safety in numbers. The more individuals who join a security arrangement, the more formidable the alliance appears, potentially deterring attacks from other groups. Logically, this is the basis for forming government—to establish a security arrangement that protects those joining from the specter of a violent death.


  • "From the unique perspective of a proven combat leader, meticulous scholar, and experienced public policy practitioner, Colonel Gibson offers his insight on what is necessary to revitalize our Republic and unite the country. [This book] combines political philosophy, public policy analysis, and autobiographical lessons to provide a fresh and compelling vision for our country -- a must-read."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: center; font: 12.0px Arial}Ed Meese, former U.S. attorney general
  • "Chris Gibson served our country with honor and distinction, both in uniform and in Congress. While we have a different approach to solving some of our country's challenges, we share the critical principle that service to our country and the well-being of the American people must come before partisan politics . . . a timely message of unity for a divided nation."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: center; font: 12.0px Arial}Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. representative (HI)
  • "RALLY POINT is an important read about how we can rekindle the American Dream, written by a man who has dedicated his life to public service. From his combat days serving in the U.S. Army to his three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Chris's wealth of experience on the most important issues facing our country has given him invaluable insight to chart a practical path forward that can unite our country."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Arial}Elise Stefanik, U.S. representative (NY)
  • "Chris Gibson has done a masterful job of laying out the enormous challenges we face as a nation, then showing us a practical way forward. Beautifully written, with powerful examples -- from baseball to combat, from family to politics -- it's an inspiring roadmap for a better future."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: center; font: 12.0px Arial}Chris Stewart, New York Times bestselling author
  • "Thoughtful insights on contemporary America and moving our country forward from a man with an inspiring story of rising from blue-collar roots to become a proven leader for our nation, from the battlefields of Iraq to the halls of Congress."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: center; font: 12.0px Arial}Dan Lipinski, U.S. representative (IL)
  • "A leader of character in uniform and on the Hill, Chris Gibson details the drift underway from our nation's founding principles and values; more importantly, he offers alternatives to better align with our forefathers' founding vision. He calls upon us all as citizens to step up and be counted . . . a resounding call to action."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: center; font: 12.0px Arial}General Dan Allyn, U.S. Army (retired), former vice chief of the Army

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Oct 3, 2017
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Chris Gibson

About the Author

Chris Gibson has over thirty-five years of distinguished public service. He has spent the last six years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (NY-19). He also spent twenty-nine years in the U.S. Army, where he rose to the rank of colonel and commanded the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade. He served four combat tours in Iraq and was awarded four Bronze Star Medals and the Purple Heart.

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