The March America Missed

By Thomas D. Segel, MGSGT USMC (Retired)


Harlingen, Texas , (PANS) They marched that cold day in February. They marched as they had countless times before, in different times and in different places.

This time there were no military bands and no reviewing stands. The formation was not as precise; the marchers' steps were not as measured. But the American flag was still in its prominent place at the front of the formation. A white-bearded Navy chief, in full uniform and walking with a cane, carried it.

Behind the flag were rank upon rank of retired military veterans of World War II and the Korean War. Some marched unaided, while others pulled oxygen tanks, were pushed in their wheel chairs or bounced along the paving on powered scooters. There were even more canes and "walkers." But they all marched.

The military retirees had come to Washington, D.C., from as far away as Korea for the Feb.12th rally, to protest the loss of their promised medical care. Some came by car, others by bus. By whatever transportation they could obtain these hundreds of senior warriors arrived at the nation's capital. The procession formed at Union Station and proceeded all the way to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, where the marchers stood a vigil for more than one hour.

All of this was done with the hope that the nation's highest court will hear and act favorably on the veterans' rejected plea to the government to restore their promised lifetime earned healthcare. The retired servicemen and their families were promised this care as one of the benefits for 20 or more years of service protecting the citizens of America.

So, where were the national media? Why, they had more important things to do. This was the same day duct tape became the news "event celebre." It was duct tape all day, on all media across the United States.

While these veterans who had dedicated their lives to this country hobbled up to the steps of the Supreme Court in protest, our major newspapers and television news teams visited Home Depot and the hardware sections of discount stores to bring America the most "important" story of the day.

Instead of the news cameras pointing at a white hearse -- with the words "Government's Answer to Military Retiree Health Care" boldly emblazoned on both sides -- newsmen rushed to videotape people loading plastic sheeting into their shopping carts.

It should be very important for America to know that the bravest and best of its citizens are being refused treatment in their old age by the same government they defended during their most productive years.

It should be important for America to know that agents of our government, from military recruiters to officials of the Department of Defense, made promises that our legal system now says do not carry the weight of law.

It should be important for America to know more than 1,000 retired service personnel who served during World War II and Korea are dying each day, while not receiving the medical attention they were promised.

As the hearse in that parade of Gray Lions made poignantly clear, the government's answer to promised healthcare for all who faithfully served their country is to wait until every one of them has taken that final ride to his appointed reward. "Then" our government may take action.

America should know about this, and the media should be reporting it to them in loud angry voices. Instead, we are given all the important details about a pending shortage of that all-important item: duct tape.

Thomas D. Segel lives in Harlingen, Texas. Send him an e-mail at: Tomsegel@tiagris


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