VOX POPULI: In Defense of Secretary Shinseki

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raymond uno2By RAYMOND UNO

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing you regarding the present controversy about Secretary Eric Shinseki and the Veterans Affairs Department.

My family has a record of military service. My father, Clarence Hachiro Uno, served with the Rainbow Division of the U.S. Expeditionary Force in France during World War I, my brother served as a medic with the U.S. Army in Japan at the end of World War II, and I served four years in the U.S. Army with the Military Intelligence Service and the Counter Intelligence Corps in Japan during the Korean War. My cousins served with the famed 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team in Europe and Military Intelligence Service in the Pacific during World War II and my cousin, Archie Uno, was KIA during the Korean War.

I am writing in defense of Secretary Shinseki. Secretary Shinseki inherited a bureaucracy over which he had no previous control. He has not been negligent or underachieving on his job. As you are no doubt aware, Secretary Shinseki worked incredibly hard and has vastly improved the service to veterans from all our recent wars from World War II on.

With the lack of proper funding, a department seeped in bureaucracy, a constant influx of aging veterans with multiple and life-threatening health issues, new and recent servicemen and women with complex mind and body injuries, traumatic brain syndrome afflictions, and thousands of mental health issues, it is not any wonder that the VA hospitals are inordinately overwhelmed with the resources they now have available.

Although the scandal in Arizona and perhaps some other states that may be uncovered is unquestionably and unfathomably terrible for the families and very unfortunate and regrettable, when you compare that with the millions of servicemen and women whom the VA hospitals have served well and the thousands and thousands of lives that have been saved because of the care received from the VA hospitals, the VA should be applauded.

Secretary Shinseki has an unblemished military record. He is a recipient of two Purple Hearts for combat injuries requiring long, hard rehabilitative therapy and hospitalization. He knows what it is like to be in a VA hospital and his commitment to making the VA hospital the best that we can afford and the best of any military hospital in the world is unquestioned.

A person with his military experience, his personal knowledge of VA medical care, and years as head of the VA, with the help of objective findings of problems in Arizona and other VA hospitals, will competently address, improve and correct deficiencies of care and delivery of medical services. Without Shinseki at the helm, it will take months to find a better and more competent person to replace him, if that is possible. In the meantime, a humongous, rudderless ship will be cast in the vast ocean of bureaucracy and controversy with no direction. What an ominous scenario for our country, and particularly the vets.

I have received excellent medical care at our local vets hospital. There have been some delays and miscommunication, but the care I received, nonetheless, cannot be surpassed, even in a private hospital. The testimony of other vets I know will be the same.

This is an election year and this has become an issue for the Obama administration. Ask your critics if they know what the VA hospital has done and is doing under Secretary Shinseki’s guidance. It is difficult to fight cronyism, corruption, deception and incompetence that are secreted from you purposely with the intent and hope it will never be found out.

As the president of the United States and any president of any company or organization, you inherit a bureaucracy from your predecessor. Although you appoint as many people as possible whom you have complete confidence in, they also inherit the problems and bureaucracy of their predecessors and on and on. You do the best you can with what you have and Secretary Shinseki has done just that and done a terrific job under the circumstances.

The head of the American Legion has called for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation. I have forgiven but not forgotten the American Legion calling for the removal of all Japanese from the West Coast, citizen and alien alike, in spite of little or no evidence they were a security risk to the country or West Coast. Because of war hysteria, political gamesmanship, failure of our political institutions and wise and mature leadership, my family, and 120,000 other people of Japanese ancestry were deprived of our constitutional rights and herded into ten wartime concentration camps.

Incidentally, my father, an American citizen, an honorably discharged veteran, died within nine months in the camp as an American prisoner of war in his own adopted country, which he served loyally until his death. On the eve of his death he was at a USO reception for servicemen visiting their family in the barbed-wire-fenced camps. What an irony. My father organized the USO for the camp. Another irony: He was given a military funeral by the American Legion posts of Cody, Powell and Heart Mountain, Wyoming.

I think the American Legion, again, is making a colossal mistake in asking for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation. I hope you do not buy their and some other vet groups’ somewhat hysterical cry for someone’s scalp without having all the facts but merely sensational and distorted news headlines, and the same goes for Republican and some Democratic legislators.

This is written hastily with no editing because of the urgency of the situation, but I hope you get the message. Don’t ask for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation but help him do the job he is capable of doing. I don’t think you will ever regret this decision.

From a retired, old, cynical senior veteran.

Raymond Uno is a former judge from Salt Lake City. He served as a special agent in the 441st Counterintelligence Corps and was honorably discharged as a Korean War veteran. This article was written prior to Eric Shinseki’s resignation as VA secretary on May 30. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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