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 Friday, March 27, 2007
Press Release

It could have been any given night. There was a young man who had forgotten it was too many years since his stint in Vietnam, and he had broken his leg playing baseball in the park. He was in the trauma room, interview room #1 had a Korean Vet who was having trouble with his family because he began wandering at night and was refusing his medication, and a young man had just come in the emergency room because he was having trouble breathing and needed his medication renewed.

It could have been any emergency room, any where in the world, after all it was August and it was a Friday night. You had to expect a busy night in any hospital emergency room. 

They were all looking for help, and help was what they found, each of them had nothing in common except they were veterans - different ages, different problems but they all shared a past where they had served: Korea, Vietnam and an Active Duty Airmen who was on his way to Desert Storm. Each and every one following his nation’s orders to honor and protect the freedoms we enjoy.

It could have been any hospital, but it wasn’t. It was the Canandaigua VA Medical Center on a Friday night in 1992.  It was a night like any other night, before this nation began to balance their budget on the backs of the very men who lived and died in the name of freedom.

At one time the Canandaigua VA, like so many other VA’s across this great land, was a full service hospital; it had an Operating Suite and an Intensive Care Unit. It provided full medical care and, yes, it had a 24 hour Emergency Room.

Then came the cuts in budget and the cuts in staff.  It started a spiral, reducing the size and scope of services our men and women could expect when they came to Canandaigua.  Canandaigua had become upstate New York’s sacrificial lamb for the federal government.

Today the hospital stands as nothing more than a shadow of it former self - nothing more than an outpatient clinic, a nursing home and a veteran’s residence.  Don’t get me wrong, good work still goes on there, in spite of the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are good, competent, caring people there - caring for our veterans ever day.

But there should be so much more.

Today there are people like you filled with outrage over the way our men and women in uniform are being treated in places like Walter Reed Hospital, Spokane, Washington and even in the VA.  They fight in far off places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia, only to find when they come home, to the land and people they love, they are faced with another battle to get the care and treatment they need to truly come back home. We are outraged…

We plan for battle.  We plan for war.  But for those injured and wounded in so many ways we play it by ear, we under fund, we under staff, and they throw roadblocks, and obstacles in the way of heroes.

Leading this battle on the home front are new “Band of Brothers” heroes of a different kind taking up the gauntlet and fighting for decent healthcare.  Our own people like Charles Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Louise Slaughter and Eric Massa. They are joined by state representatives from communities from sea to sea. In states like Oregon, in cities like Chicago, in counties like Chemung, they join in a battle against hypocrisy.  The common worker, sometimes veterans themselves, heed the call and join forces to insure we are heard.  The Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 46 in Rochester was one of the first to give unconditional support to the call for Mandatory Funding.  They knew that the promise to care for “those who have borne the burdens of battle” must not fall to the “bean counters” in Washington. They and thousands of others like them now demand reform of the veteran’s healthcare system with one voice in Washington.

We too, Operation Firing for Effect 2008, are calling for Mandatory Funding of the Department of Veterans Affairs.  We want to insure that healthcare for our veterans is guaranteed to each and every veteran: past, present and future. We too want to insure that each and every person that has answered this nation’s call to duty has easy access to the healthcare they need.

We proudly stand beside them and any hero that defends the needs of our veterans. This column each week will do the same.

 Gene Simes

Veterans for Veteran Connection
Operation Firing For Effect Campaign 2008 - Mandatory Funding

Office: 315 986-7322 Cell: 585 329-4711


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