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thedrifter
11-26-05, 07:46 AM
Congress, It's Time to Pay the Piper
Written by Col. Bob Pappas, USMC Ret.
Saturday, November 26, 2005

One assignment I will not forget, now some 30 years later, is my service as Special Assistant for Marine Personnel to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the Pentagon. During that three-year tenure, I had the privilege, indeed honor, of dealing with literally thousands of Marine Corps and Navy personnel issues.

One of my functions was to do whatever the Secretary assigned. On one occasion he was head-down working over the lunch hour, talking to one of his contacts at Headquarters, a gent that most readers know as Oliver North, about the status of a lawsuit being brought by wives of WesPac deployed Marines against then Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Louis Wilson. The lawsuit was brought in Federal Court about the longstanding Marine Corps policy of limiting visitation by spouses to Marines who were deployed to the Far East for up to three months. General Wilson cancelled the policy. As I sat there, buried in that discussion, I sensed someone standing quietly in the doorway. Looking up, there stood then Assistant Secretary, Joseph T. McCullen Jr.. Mr. McCullen apologized for interrupting then asked me to call a lady who had just moments before called him threatening suicide if he didn’t so something about her case. The lady lived in Pennsylvania and was in her latter years. She was of German descent, had visited Germany in 1938 or ‘39 and had worked at a US Government plant during WWII from which she was dismissed with no compensation, and no adequate explanation. The story was that she had been investigated, and was fired for what was in fact some fictitious relationship with the Germans. I called, discussed the matter with the lady, and finally, with the Navy’s Civilian Personnel Director, who informed me that the lady had been a constant complainant and that they had accumulated a large correspondence file on her case. Armed with that, in due course, I briefed Secretary McCullen. He was not satisfied, especially in light of her threatened suicide.

With his renewed guidance, the entire file was requested and four or five large boxes arrived in the next few days. After reviewing literally every piece of paper in those boxes, including the investigative reports, wiretaps, etc., and concluding that there was no justifiable basis for her dismissal, I met with the Civilian Personnel Director to go over the case. At the end of the conversation the CivPersO said, “Bob, (name withheld) is 80 years old, all we have to do is wait and the problem will solve itself.” I responded, “I won’t let that happen.”

It was a late summer afternoon, most had gone home and I walked across the hall, knocked on Secretary McCullen’s door and he beckoned me to enter. I announced the reason for my visit, proceeded to brief him about what I had learned and gave him my recommendation that the lady be compensated for her unfair loss of employment, income, and status. He agreed, asked for her phone number and called her while I stood there. McCullen identified himself, then with great compassion and warmth apologized and comforted her. He then informed her that she would be contacted by Navy Personnel officials to work out a settlement. Despite the significant size of the eventual settlement, the most important thing to the lady was the apology.

The intent of this is not to malign the Department of the Navy, but to hold Joe McCullen up as a shinning example of HITRAP (Honesty, Integrity, Trust, Responsibility, Accountability, and care for People). God bless Joe McCullen for his sensitivity, fairness and determination to do what was right despite years of contrary precedent by a succession of Department of the Navy officials.

This is how the Congress should act with respect to those aging veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam who are dying at an increasing rate. The dirty little secret is that soon, as the CivPersO said, “the problem will resolve itself.”

The Courts and the Congress know well the promises made by legitimate agents of the US Government on its behalf during a time of national emergency and great danger. Indeed, many elected and appointed officials acknowledge this fact but do nothing. But they owe it—we owe it—to these veterans to insure that they get their due.

The Congress is respectfully urged to do what’s right with respect to those Veterans who have sacrificed much. After all, you are enjoying your most recent raise in salary partly because of the sacrifices made by our veterans. Don’t you think that deserves some sort of thanks?

Semper Fidelis.

About the Writer: Bob joined the U.S. Marine Corps in February 1959 and retired in October 1989. He served two combat tours in Vietnam, and flew 500 missions in the F-4 and OV-10 aircraft. His military awards include LoM (2), DFC (2), (SM)AM (2), (SF)AM(24), Purple Heart, MSM, BS (V), and NCM. Bob is married to his best friend, and has a fabulous stepson and daughter-in-law and two wonderful, magnificent, lovely, precious, heart-melting grandchildren. Col. Bob receives e-mail at cheetah@gulf1.com.

Ellie