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Monday, August 11, 2003

A CALL TO ARMS...

Remarks of Stephen H. (Steve) Cobb, Colonel and Retired State Senator (HI), for
MOPH PURPLE HEART DAY OBSERVANCE
at Mount Vernon, VA, on Thursday, August 7, 2003
Hosted by Greater Washington Chapter #353

A Call to Arms for Combat Wounded Veterans


Thank you for the honor to be invited as your speaker to honor the 221st Anniversary since three great American heroes were awarded the first Purple Heart, then called the Badge of Military Merit: Sergeants Elijah Churchill, William Brown, and Daniel Bissell, Jr. In 1782, the Badge of Military Merit was a simple figure of a heart, cut from purple cloth of silk edged with narrow lace of binding. Today the Purple Heart Medal has become the most widely recognized decoration in the USA for being wounded in combat.

It was General Douglas MacArthur, as the new Chief of Staff of the Army, who revised the Badge of Military Merit to be in the form of a Purple Heart, in honor of the 200th birthday of George Washington, on February 22, 1932. Upon receiving the draft of the implementing general orders, he crossed out “Badge of Military Merit” and wrote in “Purple Heart” instead. He then issued War Department General Orders No. 3, reading as follows: “Purple Heart. — By order of the President of the United States, the Purple Heart, established by General George Washington at Newburgh, August 7, 1782, during the War of The Revolution, is hereby revived out of respect to his memory and military achievements.”

The Purple Heart has continued to this day as the only medal awarded for wounds received in combat. The criteria for those eligible has been changed several times over the years since 1932. Shortly after the Purple Heart award was revived, a group of combat wounded veterans founded the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), which was finally chartered by Congress in 1958 to represent the interests of veterans before Congress and other agencies, working with other veterans organizations as needed.

Most importantly, the credit goes to each of you—the recipients of the Purple Heart Medal, and your family members - who have kept alive the Military Order of the Purple Heart for all these many years. You have made a commitment to continue the legacy, and you have made the effort to be here today, for which we all thank you.

We, who wear the Purple Heart Medal of today, have fought, and bled, and in too many cases, have died for our country. We belong, involuntarily, to one of the most exclusive organizations today - the group of people who were wounded in combat as a direct result of armed enemy action. We love our country, and we have proven this love on the battlefields of America's wars. We would willingly do so again, wherever and whenever the need may arise. As defenders of freedom, we also claim the right to speak freely, and today I intend to exercise that right, as a celebration of freedom. At the risk of being controversial, I think the time has come to comment about promises NOT kept to our veterans, by our government, including the President, the Department of Defense, the Justice Department, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. My remarks are entirely my own, and not on behalf of any organization. However, I believe many veterans will agree with what is said today.

Our Continental Army Commander and First American President George Washington said, and I quote: “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceived veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.”

The day before his inauguration, on January 19, 2001, President-elect George W. Bush said, and again I quote: “In order to make sure that morale is high with those who wear the uniform today, we must keep our commitment to those who wore the uniform in the past... We will make sure promises made to our veterans will be promises kept.”

I say to you today, Mr. President, those promises have not been kept.

The three major issues of most concern to retired and soon-to-be-retired veterans, not in any order of priority, today are: One—Concurrent Receipt; two—Full lifetime medical care; and three—Full TRICARE and Medicare funding, with full survivors' benefits. A brief history of issues one and two may be very educational.

The Bush Administration and Justice Department sent its legions of lawyers to argue against the class action suit to restore full lifetime medical care for our veterans who had been promised such a benefit for 20 years of dedicated service to our country!

The Class Action Group (CAG) of those seeking full lifetime medical care as promised by our government and military recruiters, led by Colonel George “Bud” Day, a retired Air Force Medal of Honor recipient, said in a DIRECT message to the President and Congress, on June 27, 2003, as follows, and I quote in part:

“One might ask President Bush, ‘Mr. President how can you demand other nations adhere to promises and commitments when you and our Congress won't keep promises and commitments made to your own military retirees and veterans? Your White House fought our medical care promise all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Congress is delaying, denying or otherwise ignoring benefit commitment obligations made to our retired veterans.’

‘Our government has failed, and broken faith with its warriors in time of need - it has not honored its word—you have not honored your word Mr. President.

‘We love our country and would fight for her again in a minute but we are disgusted with greedy, self-serving, politicians. Mr. President, you, Congress and the Supreme Court have led retired military veterans down a long road of denial, delay, deception and selfish betrayal. It must stop; commitments to our retired veterans must be fulfilled.’” (End of Quote)

In the Independence Day message for 2003, the CAG represented by Harry Riley for Colonel Bud Day said, and again I quote in part:

“What we have been doing and continue to do, what our fight for military retiree medical care stands for, is all wrapped up in the integrity, strength, truth, courage, and honor represented in our flag and the bedrock laid by our founding fathers. Truth and justice does matter...still.

“We want our present generation of troops to know that our fight is for them too, as they fight, and yes, die for us. A special thought today to our widows, widowers, and spouses who have and continue to fight the good fight.” (End of Quote)

I think it is a national disgrace for the Secretary of Defense to threaten (again) a veto if full Concurrent Receipt or an expansion of TRICARE is passed by the Congress, as reported in the Military Officers’ Association of America (MOAA) Legislative Update for Friday, July 11, 2003. In a way, I hope such a veto is made this year, because then we as veterans can learn who our friends really are under fire in the Congress of the United States. I will say more on this later.

On the legislative front, there is currently a drive in Congress for a Discharge Petition to force the removal from Committee of a bill for full Concurrent Receipt.

(From the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Legislative Report for June 27, 2003.) I quote in part: “Some are trying to make this a partisan issue, but there should be nothing partisan about relief for disabled retirees.
Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the House has expressed opposition to the maneuver (recognizing continuing White House opposition), and is urging its members not add their names. We couldn't disagree more. This is only a partisan issue if politicians choose to make it so. It's not partisan in any way, shape or form to expect legislators of both parties to back up these words with action. If we are to overcome that opposition, we have to remind legislators that their first duty is to their constituents, not to their party leaders. The only way we're going to move forward is to generate an avalanche of mail to Capitol Hill, and make those who say they support disabled retirees realize that they can't have it both ways. Then if you have already done so, please take a moment to write your representative and ask him or her to sign the discharge petition. (This can be done at any time.) You can also ask personally. The question you ask can be simple, short, and to the point. ‘If you support concurrent receipt, and co-sponsored H.R. 303, why don't you sign the (Discharge) Petition?’” (End of quote)

So what more can we do as citizens and veterans to help on veterans' issues? We can boycott the ceremony, parade, or home appearance of those Members of Congress who do not support our issues. Or, better yet, we can show up at their ceremony, parade, or home appearance with placards and picket signs and ask the hard questions of why the Congressperson does not support veterans. Then we can explain in detail to the news media present exactly why that Congress member does not support veterans, despite claims he/she has made.

A long time ago, I learned the legislative lesson on the difference between being involved and being committed. It is like the difference between ham and eggs: The chicken is involved in that process, but ah, the pig is truly committed to the issue. In short, he gave his all. Now we should ask our Members of Congress to be more than just involved by co-sponsoring or saying they support our bills, but to be truly committed on our veterans’ issues by voting under fire as outlined in my political rating chart. This needs to be done in every state and in every congressional district. That is where our grassroots veterans can play a crucial role by keeping the pressure on their Member of Congress, and voting as a block based on performance the next election. As former President Reagan often said to the Soviets: “Trust, but verify!”

We must remember, it was the Department of Defense (DoD) under a Democratic administration that recommended cutting the lifetime medical benefits of retirees in 1995, and a Republican administration that opposed both Concurrent Receipt and the restoration of full lifetime medical care in 2002, and again this year. Therefore, both political parties have screwed veterans with equal abandon. We should be equally bi-partisan in our efforts. So please, Mr. President, bring on your veto this year, and let us find out who our friends really are, under fire in the veto override process.

For me, there is no personal benefit in either full lifetime medical care or Concurrent Receipt. I enlisted in the Army long after the December 7, 1956 cut off date. After my service in Vietnam, where I was wounded, I waived in writing any disability claim to continue serving our country in the U.S. Army Reserve. So, I am not eligible for Concurrent Receipt, however it is defined.

As for TRICARE and Medicare, we cannot stop the aging process. But, as an officer and leader, I have been responsible for taking care of my soldiers, and I am joining thousands of other officers and leaders to fight for our troops in another battlefield called "the legislative process" also known as Congress. As a retired State Senator, I also know first-hand the devious nature of the legislative process.

I was deeply touched when reading an Email account of a hospital visit by the President, who prayed for a wounded veteran who lost his right hand in combat in Iraq. The President then kissed the forehead of the veteran, said that he loved him, and thanked him for his service. Yet, at the same time, this same President will deny that veteran the fairness of Concurrent Receipt for the disability because of his wound.

We, who have fought and bled in America's wars, are now asking for your help on another battlefield called the "Legislative Process" and our area of operations is now in the halls of Congress. We are joined in this fight by veterans from across America, members of our Ladies Auxiliary, and sympathetic supporters, many of whom are not veterans, but who recognize what is right and just for our veterans.

As John Fitzgerald Kennedy said at the close of his inaugural address: “Let us go forth to lead the land we love, knowing that here on earth, God's work must truly be our own.” Thank you, God Bless all of you, and God Bless America.

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Enclosed on the next page is a brief, biographical summary of the guest speaker, Steve Cobb, Colonel and Senator, Retired. This biography, and the entire Purple Heart Day program may also be accessed on the Internet at the web address of: www.PurpleHeart353.com




STEVE COBB: Military and Legislative Background

Steve Cobb served as an elected Member of the House of Representatives from 1972 to 1978 and as a Senator of the State of Hawaii from 1978 to 1992. He was elected a total of 7 times with victory margins as high as 77%. He also served as an informal advisor to President Bill Clinton on Russia, and briefed the President personally on economic and political developments in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), formerly known as the Soviet Union.

In 1989 and 1990, Steve traveled to Russia to meet with and help Afghantsi, Soviet veterans of the Afghan war. The purposes of his visits were to help fellow veterans adjust to civilian life and find jobs after returning home from an unpopular war. He and other Vietnam veterans served as older brothers and advisors to their comrades in arms. Steve is a Vietnam veteran, wounded 4 times, and decorated 5 times, including the Silver Star Medal for rescuing 6 wounded comrades under enemy fire from 3 sides. For his heroism, he also received a battlefield promotion to the rank of Captain.

From 1991, Steve lectured extensively at Moscow State Lomonosov University in Russia, and many other cities of the USSR. He was invited as a guest lecturer on the subjects of international investments, economics, banking, computers, political science, and fiber optic technology. He was a leader in lifting the American embargo on fiber optic cable to the former USSR. He lived in Minsk, Belarus for 6 years, and lectured at both Moscow State University and the Joint Military Intelligence College (JMIC) of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) for over 6 years. His military experience includes specialized training in nuclear defense and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

In 1992, Steve first visited the Republic of Belarus and toured factories that manufactured the weapons, which caused 2 of his 4 wounds and killed 6 of his 10 friends in Vietnam. He helped those factories successfully convert to making instruments of peace, such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, and household electrical parts. His Belarussian friends have said he is living proof it is better for us to trade and talk with each other than to shoot each other.

In 1992, Steve VOLUNTARILY gave up his Senate seat to move to Russia and the CIS to help with economic development after the breakup of the USSR. He has traveled extensively in all Republics of the CIS, the successor of the former Soviet Union

In the private sector Steve has worked as Corporate Policy Director for a large Hawaii energy firm and Director of Administration for a major health food company. From 1992 to 1995, he led the delivery of anti-radiation enzyme products to the people of Belarus who suffered extensively from the fallout of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Steve works and meets periodically with over 20 private investor groups in the USA and Pacific Region. He recommends investments as well as legislation to promote a favorable investment and business climate. He provides counter terrorism consulting, international investment, and economic analysis. Steve is an active member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).

Please welcome retired Colonel and Senator Steve Cobb.

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