Friday, December 8, 2006

One Marine's Story

The Record today carried the story of Marine Cpl. Visnu Gonzalez. This is how it started:

Marine Cpl. Visnu Gonzalez was manning a machine gun in battle-torn Fallujah, Iraq, three years ago when a sniper shot him in the neck, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Now, from his wheelchair, the highly decorated Purple Heart recipient is fighting another battle: to get a home of his own in the Pascack Valley.

A U.S. citizen who grew up in the Dominican Republic, Gonzalez feels at home in Hillsdale, where he spent summers with his uncle and worked as a clerk at the local ShopRite. "My family is all there," said Gonzalez, whose aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and grandmother live near Hillsdale. "I can't wait to have a place of my own and go back to school to study computers. That's all I ever wanted to do."

Until recently, the 23-year-old was receiving treatment at the James Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa, Fla. But his mother, Maria Baez, a native New
Yorker, took him back to the Dominican Republic two weeks ago because they have nowhere else to go.
This is one of those stories that makes you wonder what is wrong with Washington that they can allow this to happen. This comes on the heels of a conversation with a friend of mine who has first hand knowledge of how the VA functions, and Cpl. Gonzalez's experience is not unique.

We have to take care of our Vets. While groups like Homes For Our Troops and Hope For The Warriors have been created for individuals like Cpl. Gonzalez, the void they are filling is an unconscionable one to begin with. With over 63,500 U.S. military amputeed, wounded, severely injured, injured, mentally ill, all now out of Iraq, the non-profit and church based efforts cannot possibly piece together all of the lives impacted by this war.

The housing of Cpl. Gonzalez should have been worked out by the VA while he was in treatment, once his needs were known. And yes, taxpayers should foot the bill for the necessary renovations to the homes of the family members who would have taken him in. If it takes a massive revamping and corresponding increase of funding to the VA to honor the service provided by these men and women we have to do it. Regardless of how people felt about the war, most people I spoke with during the campaign agreed playing politics and balancing the budget on the backs of our wounded is completely immoral.

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