Veterans, VA Hospitals and Our Military Bases

Dear Members of the Armed Forces, Veterans and Friends,

     My brother, Gordon, passed away two years ago...he was a Vietnam Veteran and died from the long-term effects that Agent Orange had on his body.   He was promoted to Army specialist five near Tuy Hoa, Vietnam where he had been assigned to the 577th Engineer Battalion's Headquarters Company in 1968. He helped to construct roads and bridges for combat which is likely when he was exposed to Agent Orange…presumably while clearing tropical jungle land for roads.

     Gordon had been drafted, another brother, Michael served four years as a conscientious objector volunteer janitor at a University.  In a show of support for my brothers, I volunteered a year of volunteer service at a "Brethren in Christ" mission in the S. Bronx/Harlem, New York.  My income as a case history typist at the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Home for Dependent and Neglected children went to the mission and I received $10 a month to pay for my personal needs.  That was in 1972-1973, one of the most dangerous periods in the history of New York, especially Harlem. 

     I understand the hardships and grief of our military personnel and I honor their service at home and around the globe.  Senate District 16 is home to several of the largest and most strategically significant military training and logistics centers in the country, Edwards Air Force Base, Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Fort Irwin National Training Center, China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, and the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow. These military bases are critical to our economy in this district.      

     As a former federal archaeologist I have knowledge and can competently state that collaboration between the bases and the federal land managers with regard to the protection of the environment and the safety of our troops is a number one concern.  Expansion of our bases laterally into new acreage must take long term consequences into consideration. I appreciate the caution that our base commanders have used to protect California's resources.   

     Military families and our service members are an integral part of both our economy and communities. The burden that the revised military pension cut places on retirees is to, in effect, force veterans to navigate their retirement pension future on their own.  This amounts to "privatization" of pensions forcing Veterans to learn to navigate the stock market on their own on top of other burdens...cunning tactics by corporate Wall Street wolves.  I do not support the Republican revisions.

   Further, I know how important it is that the VA hospitals not be privatized as the Republican Koch brothers propose.  They would have you believe our VA hospitals are faltering and need to be supported by additional private clinics--beware the corporate "foot in the door."   Our VA hospitals are the world class standard, accessible to veterans and their families under the VA system  including in rural areas and set the example for national Medicare for All. The VA Hospital in Missouri was so important to my brother in his last days.  The VA took such exceptionally great care of him that we were fortunate to have him with us for many more years than was anticipated given the condition.