Wednesday, March 18, 2009

UpDated: Veterans March for VA Hospital in S. Texas

Kathy Upton, pictured above in the red shirt, is the manager of the Best Western in George West. On Tuesday afternoon Upton donated two rooms to Rio Grande Valley veterans who are marching to San Antonio. This allowed the veterans to get showers after their 30-mile trek from Alice. (Photo: RGG/Joey Gomez)

A couple of days ago I posted about a group of Veterans Marching to San Antonio Texas to raise awareness of the need for Veterans Hospital in South Texas that's been needed for a long time, the Texas Pols have promised but it never comes about, typical.

This is to update that previous, with a few news reports, video and pictures, as these Vets are On The March!!

A Call to Action!

An open invitation for the March to San Antonio in order to raise community and national awareness of the distance Valley Veterans must travel to receive Specialized, Surgical, and Urgent care because of the lack of a local VA Hospital.

Started: March 14th 2009

Ending: March 20th 2009

4:00 p.m.

Audie Murphy Memorial VA Hospital

7400 Merton Minter St

San Antonio TX 78229

Anyone reading and in Texas in or near San Antonio welcome their arrival on the 20th!

March To San Antonio, this is a different page than the one directly above, in the quote. It takes you to a site that gives photo's of their daily progress.

Veterans begin their march Saturday morning on the steps of the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library in Edinburg on their way to San Antonio to bring awareness of the need for a veterans' hospital in the Valley. (photo: Joel Martinez | The Monitor)

Here's some recent photo's, articles, video, and audio:

Gomez: Thoughts from Day One of the Valley Veterans March

SAN MANUEL, March 15 - Rio Grande Valley Veterans March organizer Rey Leal was smiling after completing the first 25 miles of the trek to San Antonio.

“Do your feet feel like hamburgers,” he asked me, as we reached San Manuel. “Don’t quit. Don’t do something just to quit. You are already here so finish. There is no room for weakness from any of the Valley veterans.”

Leal served two tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine and is a member of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“For the record, I don’t intend to quit, ever,” Leal said, referring to decades-old fight for a veterans’ hospital in the Valley. “It only took a few minutes on the road for me to realize this is much bigger than me or any one of us.”

Guardian reporter Joey Gomez is embedded in Charlie Team on the Valley Veterans March. Charlie Team comprises Terry Alaffa of McAllen, Mindy Vela of Edinburg, and Mike Mejia of Mercedes. The group is pictured alongside U.S. 281 between Premont and Alice on Day Three of the march.

Peña: Veterans are riding a wave of support not seen before

SAN MANUEL, March 15 - A different feeling pervades the current march by Rio Grande Valley veterans to San Antonio, according to state Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg.

“Veterans are riding a wave of support never before seen in the region,” Peña said.

Peña made his comments while walking with the veterans that set off from Edinburg on Day One of the current march. He was the only lawmaker to travel with Valley veterans in their first march to San Antonio in November, 2005. Prior to that walk, many of the veterans struggled hard to get the attention of national politicians to build them a VA hospital, Peña said.

“You can tell the difference, and the response was immediate after that walk for the needs of those veterans,” Peña said. “You can tell by the crowd today, when were walking in 2005 there were perhaps 12 of us walking. Now, well I don't know the number here but it's large, maybe four or five times the size and that's because of the response we feel we're getting.”

Gomez: Thoughts from Day Two of the Valley Veterans March

FALFURRIAS, March 16 - At this point it's about 10 p.m. and I am huddled in a corner of the building at Post 7634 in Falfurrias. I'm sleeping on a dining table with my sleeping bag because some of the veterans had mentioned rats but I still haven't seen one.

Without a doubt today's 47 mile march from San Manuel to the Border Patrol Checkpoint and finally to Falfurrias separated the fair-weather supporters from the truly hardcore veterans who are absolutely determined to reach San Antonio. The pain of the march has strengthened their resolve, which remains undaunted.

Throughout the trip I am constantly reminded by veterans that the media do not know how it feels to make the repeated trip to San Antonio because they haven't experienced the hardship, which makes my trip all the more important. My goal remains to understand the veterans at this level.

March 16, 2009 - Vets: We deserve closer care
Vets march through south Texas to highlight the need for a V.A. hospital. Organizer Rey Leal talked to HLN from the road.

Mike Escobedo, Jesus Bocanegra, and Maribel Guzman march along U.S. 281 between Premont and Alice on Monday. The Valley veterans march in relay, with groups of four or five completing eight miles each. The Guardian was able to get an audio interview with Escobedo while he was marching Monday.

Audio: Valley veteran talks about the aches and pains endured by marchers

ALICE, March 16 - On Monday, the Guardian dropped in on the Valley Veterans March to ask Mike Escobedo how things were going.

Monday is Day Three of the march, with veterans traveling from Falfurrias to Alice. The weather was much warmer than on the first two days of the March. However, Escobedo said the spirits of the marchers was high.

Audio interview in Windows Media Player

And while these Veterans are Marching what they seek is being announced to day to be built, but in another state, as this I received earlier from the Veterans Administration Announces:

VA to Build Stand-Alone Replacement Hospital in Denver

WASHINGTON – Fulfilling President Obama’s pledge to “stand with our veterans as they face new challenges,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will build a stand-alone replacement hospital for its existing facility in Denver. The new facility will be located on the grounds of the Army’s former Fitzsimons hospital in Aurora.

The new medical center will provide Denver-area Veterans with a full range of medical, laboratory, research and counseling services, including services for Veterans with spinal cord injuries (SCI) and other disabilities.

VA will also create new Health Care Centers, which provide ambulatory care and same-day surgical services, in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Billings, Mont. The Colorado Springs facility will be managed in collaboration with the Department of Defense. VA also plans to add eight new health care facilities in rural areas throughout the region.

Is it cost or numbers that prevents VA from building Valley veterans hospital, ask marchers

ALICE, March 16 - Rio Grande Valley veterans marching from Edinburg to San Antonio believe they have come across one of the most compelling reasons for building a VA hospital in their region.

A car pulled up as they were walking towards the Falfurrias checkpoint on U.S. 281 on Sunday. A woman leaned out and handed veteran Juan Vela a note. Unsigned, the note told the story of her husband, a 65-year-old Valley veteran who has made 55 trips to the Audie Murphy VA hospital in San Antonio. The man has prostate cancer. The woman said she does not know if her husband will live long enough to make his 56th trip to San Antonio.

Because of the traffic backing up behind her, the woman had to drive off before the marching veterans could find out the name of the ailing veteran.

“We have the man’s letter but we would like to know his name because we want to have his testimony entered into the record when we go to Congress,” said Valley veteran Mike Escobedo.

Well now these Vets, when they travel to Washington next week, to lobby for their needs, now have a new tool to use, the building of this Va Hospital. If this country can afford this one, as well as enriching Incompetent Executives with bonuses from these so called 'bailouts', that means there's more than enough money to give to S.Texas in that long time need!

Valley veterans Apol Uresti of Donna, Manuel Ibarra of Edinburg and Jose Maria Vasquez of Elsa are pictured on Day Three of the Valley Veterans March. Vasquez said he is disturbed by comments made by the VA about why a veterans' hospital cannot be built in the Valley. (Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)

Valley veterans Rey Leal and Chris Treviño are pictured after giving an interview to the Guardian and KGBT Action 4 News alongside U.S. 281 between Premont and Alice on Monday. Leal said motorists are honking their horns and pulling over to provide water, supplies and donations. “People have been great," Leal said.


-- "The government only works when you put pressure on it.

There's going to be a VA hospital in the Valley."

Vets March for VA Hospital in South Texas

KIIITV News March 17, 2009

ALICE--If you were in the Jim Wells County area today, you probably noticed dozens of military veterans hitting the streets marching towards San Antonio. Their goal? To get a VA Hospital built in the Valley.

The veterans said more than 100,000 vets live in the Coastal Bend, the Valley and Laredo. They want a VA hospital in South Texas for special treatment instead of being forced to go to San Antonio.

Several groups of veterans were marching on Highway 281 in the Alice area today. They said dozens of vets are taking part in this march to raise awareness about the hospital.

Veterans VA Texas March

Day 4 of Valley veterans' march to San Antonio

ALICE, TEXAS -- Tuesday marked day four of the Rio Grand Valley veterans march to San Antonio. The march is designed to highlight the need for a Veterans Affairs hospital in Deep South Texas.

The nearest one is in San Antonio is about 280 miles from the Valley. Local veterans marched from Falfurrias to Alice Monday.Motorists traveling past them on U.S.Highway 281 were stopping to offer money, water and supplies.

Organizer Rey Leal said the group didn't let the heat get in the way of the purpose for the walk.

Gomez: Just 90 miles to go on Valley Veterans March

Vietnam War veteran Juan Vela, uncle of Progreso mayor Omar Vela, is walking all the way on the Valley Veterans March. (Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)

GEORGE WEST, March 18 - A little more than 90 miles to go. The arrival of the Rio Grande Valley veterans in George West at the end of day four was a turning point in countless ways.

First, all the veterans say they are now more accustomed to the daily rigors of the march. The miles aren't taking as much of an impact on bones, joints, or tender feet. Rather all say they are in fact hardened to the road. The initial shock of the march is gone and that the injuries to limbs and body that were prevalent even a mere two days ago are over.

March organizer Rey Leal told me earlier that all veterans have gotten over the shock of walking farther than the couch to the fridge. This reporter however trained for two weeks before this mission.

They are coming towards their goal of reaching San Antonio by friday, coming near the end of todays march, than tomorrow into friday, give some Support if in Texas and near by the March route.

The rest of us give Support by visiting their sites Here - A Call to Action! and Here - March To San Antonio. And give a call or other communication to your representative in both the house and senate.

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