HARLINGEN, June 20 - Rio Grande Valley veterans still do not have a Veterans Affairs hospital. Will our local heroes ever get one?
Many Valley veterans feel that they have earned the benefits afforded them under law and are of the thinking that our government is automatically responsible for the delivery of said benefits. After all it’s the Law. Yet many others do not want to ask for their benefits feeling that they will be “leeching” off the government if they receive these “handouts.”
Then there are the veterans that do not want any glory or recognition. They volunteered and served their country and that’s enough said. They are the ones that state that they would do it again, if called by their Country. And there are the “wannabees” and those that exaggerate their service.
Politicians take advantage of the sentiments and feelings of the veteran. Some of these politicians (and they know who they are) tell veterans advocates that they are preaching to the wrong choir, that they support the veterans. But, that is as far as they go.
To the surprise of many during this past primaries, politicos and veterans are wondering what happened in the re-election campaign of Congressman Silvestre Reyes in the 16th Congressional District in El Paso.
Reyes, a Democrat, sat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and could have helped many Texas veterans in his district as well as here in South Texas. Local veterans and supporters sent him letters asking for his help as a member of the VA Committee. He never responded to those inquires. Despite years of service he lost in the Democratic primary on May 29.
Who among our present Congressional delegation will step up and take the lead and play and active role with this very important and noble issue, a VA hospital for South Texas. Most of the work has been done and many veterans feel that it’s just there waiting for someone to apply a little pressure and lobby the VA and the officials in this department who are working on the Strategic Capital Investment Plan.
Veterans have been told by local VA officials that it will be a decision made at the top at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Orders must come from the higher ups in order for them to move on a proposal or plan to expand the Harlingen VA Surgical Center to a Full Service Medical Center. This could be true, but who can apply pressure on the VA? Our elected officials can, if they so desire. It will take some work, but it can be done.
Again, will anyone from our Congressional delegation step up to the plate? Senator John Cornyn, Congressmen Rubén Hinojosa, Henry Cuellar, and Blake Farenthold are the ones who must decide. Whoever replaces Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will not be able to start until the beginning of 2013. In the meantime, we have six months left in 2012. This is time veterans cannot afford to lose by sitting idly by.
In the newly-created Congressional District 34, none of the candidates left in the race (Denise Saenz Blanchard and Filemon Vela for the Democrats and Adela Garza and Jessica Puente Bradshaw for the Republicans) have mentioned the VA hospital issue one way or another. Sure, they make statements of support, but again it’s only talk. No plans. Just promises.
Veterans have done so much work that they must once again muster their forces and make another concerted effort. There is plenty of work to be done.
As I write this column I can’t help but laugh at the mayor of San Benito fighting with the ex-mayor pro tem as to whose name should be on a plague at the Veterans War Memorial. I mean, they don’t care about the issue of a VA hospital for the veterans. They want recognition, que loco!
Arturo 'Treto' Garza served as a Marine in the Vietnam War and is a former co-chair of the Veteran’s Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley. Garza’s Veteran's Voice column appears exclusively in the Guardian. Garza lives in Harlingen, Texas.