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December 27, 2006


Two decades ago, when he was living in northern Coweta County, [Name Omitted] came up with the idea for VetNet.


[Name Omitted], a veterans rights activist who has been particularly vocal about health needs of veterans, envisioned a cable television station that would offer information of interest and benefits to the nation’s veterans — particularly those who are disabled. He even talked to then-U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich about the project.


VetNet, however, was put on the shelf as changes took place in [Name Omitted]’s life. The Vietnam veteran eventually moved to Ohio.


Now, the VetNet concept is getting a boost through two national organizations — Operation Firing For Effect and the Firebase Network. [Name Omitted] has been active in both groups and is OFFE’s public relations director.


OFFE has its headquarters in Walworth, N.Y., and the Firebase Network is based in Adrian, Mich. Both have a strong presence on the Internet.


The Internet, in fact, has helped bring many of [Name Omitted]’s issues into focus. In the early days of his crusade for better health care for veterans, he often felt there were few advocates of his cause — and many opponents to anyone complaining about weaknesses in the federal veteran’s medical system. Connections began to be made between Firebase Atlanta and other firebase groups near Veterans Administration medical centers across the country.


The explosion of Internet use connected [Name Omitted] with likeminded veterans from across the nation.

Vietnam combat disabled veteran Gene Simes is OFFE national chairman. Simes and [Name Omitted] teamed up about a year ago and since then have introduced a number of concepts designed with veterans in mind. Eventually, [Name Omitted] shared with Simes his idea — first voiced in 1987 — to start VetNet.


“This is a fabulous idea,” Simes said. “There is absolutely no logical reason to prevent the development of VetNet. It was a good idea 15 years ago, and it is still a good idea today.”


Rick Townsend, who serves as host of The Veterans Hour, an Internet talk program on the Genesis Communications Hour, spoke of the benefit VetNet would offer “to assist disabled and handicapped veterans directly in the privacy of their own homes.”


“We want to create the first free cable network devoted primarily to disabled, handicapped and elderly veterans. VetNet has the potential to not only provide a valuable service to our disabled veterans, but would also be of great value to all disabled Americans,” [Name Omitted] said.


“We believe that a network like this could reduce health care cost in many cases by providing essential health care tips, physical therapy, nutritional data and emergency information directly in the homes of our disabled,” [Name Omitted] said. “This public access channel won’t be for everyone, and individual households will have to make the decision to include it in their cable programming package.”


The Department of Veterans Affairs has a multi-media department. “A great deal of usable programming for such a channel already exists,” Townsend said.


Townsend termed VetNet “a no-brainer” particularly in an era when the VA is being impacted by budget cuts. “If we can produce network programming for golf, home shopping, food, cartoons, animals and music, a channel for our shut-in disabled veterans would be a great service to them,” he added.


Simes said he hopes the issue will get enough circulation that it will be addressed by candidates for president running in 2008. Townsend said VetNet “would represent the ultimate in veterans outreach efforts.”




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