By: Susan Knowles
Our U.S. Veterans have made the news lately following allegations that the Veterans Administration (VA) in at least several states have allowed veterans to die while waiting to be seen for medical treatment. Veterans were allegedly placed on “secret lists” that gave the illusion they were being treated by physicians within the required 30 day time period. The VA has denied the existence of such lists and the Secretary of the VA, Eric Shinseki, remains in his position despite public outcry demanding his resignation.
If these allegations are proven to be true, and whistleblowers are stepping forward to corroborate the allegations, then this will prove to be shameful treatment of our American Heroes. Prior to the families and other whistleblowers speaking out, veterans died without recourse.
What follows are three stories with an alarming similarity of mistreatment. They all involve veterans and an active duty U.S. Marine who waits for help from this government. While the stories that follow are unrelated to each other they may be representative of a somber trend.
The first story comes out of Los Angeles, CA where it was recently learned that approximately 60 bodies of our veterans have been kept in the Los Angeles County morgue for over a year and a half, awaiting proper burial.
The morgue initially reported that the bodies had been unclaimed and that they weren’t sure how long they had been there. The VA, in turn, claimed that they were never notified by the morgue that the bodies had been processed and were ready for burial.
The LA County Morgue wrote in an email that, “…there were about 60 decedents of probable veteran status that have awaited disposition for about a year as a result of a personnel change in the Veterans Affairs Office and stringent identification/eligibility processes required by the VA.”
Cindy Van Bibber, spokesperson for the VA denied the claim and responded by saying that, “There’s personnel changes every day but that certainly doesn’t take away from the service that we provide any veteran.” She went on to specify that, “At no point” did the morgue contact the VA and tell them about the bodies. Van Bibber concluded by saying that, “We definitely weren’t contacted or we would have had a service for the veterans.” Each organization maintains their innocence in the matter while blaming the other.
Since the allegations were first brought to light, the VA quickly moved at least 28 of the bodies to the Riverside National Cemetery, in Riverside, CA for proper burial. The law requires that all veterans receive a proper burial.
Richard Burns, a Marine Veteran, who volunteers his time at the Riverside National Cemetery, said, “I think it’s incomprehensible,” referring to the disrespect shown to the men and women who have died for this country. He went on to say that, “It’s kinda sad that these people don’t get the proper care they deserve even after death.”
To date, no one has been held responsible in either the Los Angeles County Morgue or the VA for this egregious oversight.
In another story, out of the City of Imperial, CA, 32 year old Tommy Yancy, a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, was allegedly beaten to death by five police officers on Mother’s Day. Yancy, served in the 259th Field Unit following the attacks of 9/11 and suffered from PTSD, according to reports. He was initially pulled over for not having a front license plate on his car as required by California law.
A video of the incident was posted on YouTube and a statement about the attack was written in the “about” section. In part, the posting reports that, “Yancy was attacked by a police K-9 unit, hit by a Taser, and then was attacked by five police officers until he succumbed to the beating and died.”
A witness on the scene who videotaped the encounter with police can be heard screaming, “How long before you guys call an ambulance? Call an ambulance!” According to the witness, following Yancy’s death, the family has not been permitted to see his body, nor have they been given a cause of death.
The police argue that Yancy “Swung at and officer and attacked the K-9” while witnesses claim that this occurred near the end of the video. Another witness stated, “All this for one guy who wasn’t even resisting arrest.” The officers did attempt to resuscitate Yancy at the scene without success.
To date, little information has been forthcoming in the news, and to my knowledge, nothing has been reported either nationally or outside of the City of Imperial.
There is another story that is just beginning to make the headlines. It is the story of U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who has been held in two Mexican prisons since crossing the Mexican border on March 31, 2014.
Sgt. Tahmooressi, who suffers from PTSD, was moving to San Diego, California to receive treatments at the VA. He had everything that he owned in his car, including three guns that he legally owned. He was heading near the border at night to meet with friends.
Upon leaving a parking lot, Sgt. Tahmooressi made a wrong turn and unknowingly headed directly toward the border. He ended up in a lane of traffic with an inability to get over to the correct lane that would have allowed him to make a U-turn away from the Mexican border. There is only one far left lane that allows vehicles to return to the U.S. without crossing over the border into Mexico. If a vehicle misses the turn it will have no alternative but to proceed ahead into Mexico. Sgt. Tahmooressi was in the far right lane and was unable to cross over all lanes of traffic quickly enough, due to traffic, before finding himself at the border crossing.
Immediately upon being stopped at the border checkpoint, Tahmooressi reportedly told the Mexican officials about the guns he had in his car and called 911 in the U.S. when he feared that the Mexican officials would be confiscating his guns.
Not only were his guns confiscated but Tahmooressi was arrested and placed in a maximum security prison and charged with gun trafficking; a crime with a sentence of twenty years in prison.
Tahmooressi eventually was told by the prisoners that he was going to be “raped and tortured.” He escaped from that section of the prison but was subsequently placed in solitary confinement and shackled to his bed, where his hands and feet were chained to the bed. He stayed in this position for over 30 days. He is currently in a maximum security prison outside of Tijuana where it is rumored that the drug cartel is known to have arranged killings of those that they did not want alive.
Since March 31, 2014, there has been no assistance from Secretary of State John Kerry nor the President of the United States to free this Marine who served two tours in Afghanistan, saving eight Marines from the Taliban, and in a separate incident saving a fellow Marine from bleeding to death after the Marine stepped on an IED and lost both of his legs. Tahmooressi suffered a concussion when his vehicle hit an IED during his tour in Afghanistan.
Only Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Florida) have stepped forward, thus far, to help the Marine. Hunter is asking for a pardon from the Governor of Baja State near Tijuana and has criticized John Kerry for his inaction in this matter.
“There is no response from the administration,” Hunter said, “and frankly, I think he (referring to John Kerry) sees this kind of stuff as under him. He’s the great coordinator of world catastrophes right now, why would he help a young Marine trapped in Mexico?”
As of the writing of this article, no official response has been forthcoming from the White House about helping to free Sgt. Tahmooressi.
Are these three situations a trend of how our government views our military and veterans or are these situations merely isolated incidents? Many people believe that Sgt. Tahmooressi, instead of being helped immediately, will eventually be used by this administration to push the agenda of amnesty. Perhaps the trading of one Marine for amnesty for potentially millions of illegals is already in the works.
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Susan Calloway Knowles, is a licensed California psychotherapist, former practicing California attorney, author, and political/cultural blogger. Her website is SusanKnowles.com. Susan’s book, a political fiction, is entitled Freedom’s Fight: A Call to Remember and is available on Amazon. Susan can be reached by email at [email protected]
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Article references: see at Stand for Truth