SGT. SHAFT: Vietnam plaque needs care

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Dear Sgt. Shaft, I recently visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington and walked those sacred grounds once more. As I passed by the statue “The Three Servicemen,” I viewed at the foot of the statue the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commendation Plaque, also known as the In Memory Plaque. As you and many of your readers know, the plaque was dedicated on Nov. 10, 2004, to recognize the veterans who died after service in Vietnam as a direct result of that service.

I subsequently learned that the words on the plaque are to be improved for better visibility. I appreciate this effort, but I think more needs to be done! The plaque could be raised or placed on a pedestal or moved to a more visible location. The In Memory Book with the names of the service members so honored could be placed beside the plaque.

I am interested to learn if there is interest and support among your readers to improve the visibility of the In Memory Plaque.

Sincerely,

Rep. Bob Filner

Chairman

Committee on Veterans Affairs

Dear Mr. Chairman,

I find it disgraceful that this special memorial plaque seems to have such little meaning for its visibility and maintenance by the caretakers at the wall. I join you, Mr. Filner, in urging those responsible to remedy this situation.

Shaft notes:

• As I mentioned in a previous column, the National Association for Uniformed Services (NAUS) recently sent letters to members of Congress urging their support of H.R. 23, the belated thank-you to merchant mariners of World War II.

As NAUS noted, “U.S. Merchant Marine Combat Veterans received no help and little recognition after the war from the government they served. They missed out on the GI Bill for their education, the GI Home Loan Program for purchase of their family home and related earned benefits, not to mention the cost of the medical care they underwent for the wounds, illnesses and injuries they experienced. In short, “Their service was shelved and taken for granted.”

It wasn’t until decades later, 44 years to be exact, that Congress granted veterans status to these deserving individuals - long after other veterans had used the generous benefits our nation provided and received the necessary medical care to treat their wounds.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the GI Bill in 1944, he said, “I trust Congress will soon provide similar opportunities to members of the Merchant Marine, who risked their lives time and again during the war for their country.”

Fewer than 10,000 of these brave men, who challenged our enemy at sea and helped win the war, remain. All are of extended age, and time is quickly running out for Congress to express appreciation for their service as Roosevelt intended.

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