- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2006

Dear Sgt.Shaft

My name is Spc. Michael H. I just recently returned from Iraq. I found out the company I was working for went out of business. My bills are adding up, and I stand to lose everything.

Everybody I talk to says they cannot help, or they refer me to someone else who says the same thing.

I feel I served my country faithfully, and my country doesn’t really care about the stress and financial burden that going to war puts on not only the soldier but their family as well.

I’m not asking for handouts but would like some help taking control of my financial troubles. If you have any advice, please pass it on to me.

Thank you for listening and hope to hear back from you.

Michael H.

Cullman, Ala.

Dear Michael,

I contacted the Veterans Employment and Training Service at the U.S. Department of Labor and received the following response from Thomas M. Karrh:

“Mr. H has been registered in several Alabama Workforce Agency offices for some time. He has had a case manager assigned. His [service records] give an indication that he is well qualified for security work at Redstone Arsenal, Army Missile Command, and many federal contractors in the Huntsville/Decatur area. He was referred by the workforce agency on some good security jobs. We have asked that efforts be doubled on his behalf.”

Please keep me informed of your progress.

Sgt. Shaft

Shaft Notes

A sad farewell to a good buddy, Rufus H. Wilson.

Mr. Wilson served as deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration (VA) under President Carter and as acting administrator in the opening months of the Reagan administration. He died of complications from a perforated colon Aug. 1 at Howard County General Hospital.

As a U.S. Marine Corps corporal during World War II, Mr. Wilson earned the Purple Heart after he was wounded in action on Saipan in 1944 during the Marianas campaign. Despite sustaining spinal injuries severe enough to make him a quadriplegic, Mr. Wilson underwent extensive treatment and physical rehabilitation at the U.S. Naval Medical Center in San Diego and the VA Hospital in Dearborn, Mich., before being released with residual partial paralysis in the legs and right arm.

After his honorable discharge from the Marines, Mr. Wilson attended Wayne State University before joining the fledgling American Veterans (AMVETS) in 1946 and becoming the organization’s first service director for Michigan the next year. Mr. Wilson served in a series of positions of increasing responsibility within AMVETS, culminating in his election in 1954 as the youngest national commander in the history of the organization.

Mr. Wilson joined the VA in 1955 during the Eisenhower administration as field service executive director in the VA Central Office in Washington. In 1956, he became director of the VA’s Congressional Liaison Service. From 1958 to 1968, he successively managed the VA regional offices in St. Petersburg, Fla.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Baltimore.

During the Nixon administration, Mr. Wilson returned to the VA Central Office to serve as chief benefits director and in 1970 was promoted to associate deputy administrator, the third-highest position in the VA. For the next four years, he oversaw the VA’s hospital and outpatient clinic construction and administrative programs throughout the United States. In 1974, when jurisdiction of national cemeteries was transferred to the VA, he became the first director of the new National Cemetery System.

A year later, Mr. Wilson went back to being the VA’s chief benefits director to balance the Ford administration. A lifelong Republican, Mr. Wilson tendered his resignation soon after Mr. Carter’s inauguration as president in January 1977, only to find himself being asked by incoming VA Administrator Max Cleland to become his deputy. Mr. Wilson accepted the invitation and spent the next four years as the VA’s chief executive officer, routinely appearing before congressional committees on behalf of the VA and serving as the VA’s principal liaison with the Office of Management and Budget and the national veterans service organizations.

After the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, Mr. Wilson served as acting administrator of the VA for several months and was recommended by several Republican congressional leaders to become administrator in his own right. When the White House selected another candidate for the position, Mr. Wilson accepted an offer from the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee to become minority counsel and staff director. He served in this position throughout the Reagan administration, working closely with his colleagues across the aisle to promote a bipartisan agenda on behalf of America’s veterans until his retirement from public service in 1989.

Mr. Wilson was noted within the veterans’ community for his patriotic and inspirational speeches and his unflinching commitment to the well-being of the men and women who served their country as members of the U.S. armed forces. He was often heard to say: “You don’t need new jokes, just new audiences.”

Mr. Wilson was born in Sweetwater, Tenn., and was married to Florence Mieczkowski of Toledo, Ohio, from 1949 until her death in 1985. Survivors include his children, Douglas H. Wilson of Columbia, Md., Michael T. Wilson of Crofton, Md., and Laureen W. Evans of Herndon; four grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and his sister, Celena W. Clinesmith of Northville, Mich.

Good friend Mr. Wilson will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery Aug. 29 at 3 p.m. A service will be held in the cemetery chapel before his burial.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail [email protected]

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