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Martin County Navy veteran goes viral after comparing Martin County's book ban to religious facism

'I spent the last decade of my naval career fighting religious racism abroad. I never thought I'd have to fight it here in my own country,' Wess Rexrode says
Posted at 6:40 PM, Apr 25, 2023

JENSEN BEACH, Fla. — One Martin County parent has since gone viral for his takes on books being removed.

At the Martin County Board of Education meeting on April 18, Wess Rexrode took the stand during public comment to address the district removing dozens of books from school shelves.

“September 11, 2001, I was on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt when religious fanatics, who wouldn’t even let women be educated, flew planes into the World Trade Center. I spent the last decade of my naval career fighting religious racism abroad. I never thought I'd have to fight it here in my own country," said Rexrode, as the room erupted into applause.

That clip has since gone viral.

A TikTok made by @Change_the_system1 showed Rexrode's speech has received more than 111,000 likes and tens of thousands of saves and shares.

He sat down with WPTV's Kate Hussey to talk about his recent attention, and why he said what he did.

“I never wanted to be in the public spotlight," Rexrode said.

"You've made national headlines," said Hussey.

“So I hear, yes," said Rexrode.

“What do you think about that?” asked Hussey.

"I don’t know," said Rexrode.

What Rexrode said he does know is that freedom comes at a price. He spent 21 years in the Navy, and comes from a long line of Navy veterans. His grandfather served in World War II.

Rexrode said hearing books were taken off the shelves of his son's school felt like a blow to what they fought hard to keep.

"How dare you. Like, I will decide for my son what he can and cannot read, and what he can and cannot be exposed to in class," he said. “The Taliban operates based on fear, there just seem to be some parallels here. These books have been on shelves for years. So why now? What are you really afraid of? Are you afraid of children learning different viewpoints? About different people?"

He also felt it was a blow to some families.

"That library might be their only access to books," said Rexrode.

He also felt it was a blow to the unity he feels once joined us altogether.

"I mentioned 9/11, and we were united then. And it’s a shame that it took a tragedy like that to make us united. But we were all on the same team," said Rexrode, getting emotional.

“Is that an emotional thing for you to talk about?" asked Hussey.

"Yes, very much so," said Rexrode. "I think it’s just, well, 9/11 is emotional when you think about what we lost that day, and we seem to have not learned any of the lessons I thought we learned."

That's why, despite his dread of the spotlight, Rexrode spoke to a room full of people. It's the same reason he spoke to us.

"If I don’t say something who will?" asked Rexrode. "Just preying on other people’s fear is not right, and I just felt like I had a unique perspective, and I just wanted to say what I had to say.”

He said he hoped that his words will resonate with others, and that our opinions, no matter what they may be, will not be formed out of fear.

“They didn’t have this in 1774, they had to fight for it," said Rexrode. "It's hard to say what people are thinking. That’s why we have to have dialogue. I've always tried as an officer to lead by example. That’s one of the fundamentals of leadership, is leading by example."

Rexrode said he grew up loving books and reading constantly, and said they were an escape for him. He also said his teenage son encouraged him to speak to reporters and stand up for what he believes in.