One of the more pathetic attacks against Congressman Walz is that he doesn't care about veterans, despite his own service in the National Guard, his widely-recognized work on the House veterans committee, and the dozens of public meetings he's held with vets since taking office in 2007.
Perhaps the most egregious of these attacks was an LTE in the Mankato Free Press on October 15.
A reader faulted Walz for working on getting Agent Orange being recognized as a cause of Parkinsons Disease among Vietnam vets. The writer felt that only county veterans' service offices should address vets' needs:
The Mankato Veterans Services office is open eight hours each day, Monday to Friday.Veterans, this is where you should go for assistance, not, in my opinion, to Walz’s office.
Take that, vets! In a letter published Saturday, Michael Trok, the veteran featured in the ad fired back:
Several days ago, Elwin Gunnick wrote a letter to the editor criticizing Rep. Tim Walz for an ad that features my personal story.
I have never met Gunnick, but I want to tell him why I am supporting Walz and encouraging my fellow veterans and neighbors to support him as well.
I suffer from Parkinson’s Disease due to my exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam. When I tried to get the Veterans Administration to help me with the cost of medical care, I was denied because, at the time, the VA did not recognize Agent Orange as being a contributing factor to the development of Parkinson’s. After reviewing the literature on the relationship between Parkinson’s and Agent Orange I found that the VA’s position just was not right.
It was frustrating at first because no one appeared to be listening or caring. Then I met Walz and things started to change; he listened to us, he read the research and he, then, fought for us.
Through his work on the VA Committee, we started to turn the corner and last year, the VA announced that it would assume that if a person served in Vietnam and had Parkinson’s Disease, Agent Orange was responsible.
In an age when many politicians talk the talk about veterans, but not stand behind them, I understand Gunnick’s skepticism. But, Walz is not a politician like the others.
He walks the walk and follows through. He is doing the right thing and we need him back in Congress.
Trok knows his stuff. The struggle of Agent Orange veterans to get their syndrome recognized was a long one, and I was shocked when I first learned that Parkinson's in Vietnam Vets was not yet considered as a result of Agent Orange exposure, since there are many farmers who develop the disease as a result of working with farm chemicals. The connection is no secret.
Moreover, veterans are often advised to enlist their U.S. representatives and senators and their staff to resolve issues between their individual cases and the federal bureaucracy. In fact, the Parkinson's issue was first brought to my attention by a friend (and veteran) who at the time worked on vets' issues as a member of Walz's congressional staff.
That Walz followed through and kept dogging the VA about this speaks to his dedication to veterans. Moreover, many county veteran service officers apparently share a high regard for Walz. This year, Walz received the Legislator of the Year Award from the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers (NACVSO)
Perhaps Walz's Republican critics believe the county veteran service officers association is also exploited by having the ear of a United States Representative who listens to their needs and works for the veterans they serve. Funny, but I highly doubt Randy Demmer himself would suggest that a Demmer office wouldn't help vets with case work. That's too bass ackwards even for a Hayfield Republican.
For myself, I wish all 535 members of Congress walked the walk for vets like Tim Walz does (sadly, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America only grade 19 members at A+ along with Walz). I count among my friends some very fine young people serving in the Army, Guard, Marines and Navy--and there should be champions for them when they leave the military. Nearly all of the newspapers in the First that endorsed agreed, and singled out Walz's work for veterans as a strong reason to re-elect him to a third term.
Perhaps those who don't take newspaper endorsements to heart will heed Trok's words. We all should.