NY Vets Angry Over Alleged 'Slap in the Face' From Hillary Clinton
- Tuesday, August 05, 2003
According to Dan O'Sullivan, the Queens County American Legion Committee service officer in charge of organizing this year's Broad Channel, N.Y., Korean War anniversary parade and memorial service, letters were sent to numerous local, state and federal elected officials inviting them to attend the event honoring the five men who died between 1951 and 1952.
The event was held in June of this year, 50 years after the end of the Korean War. (Hostilities actually ended on July 27, 1953.)
O'Sullivan said Clinton's office called him to say she would be unable to attend but promised to offer a proclamation on the Senate floor honoring the servicemen and said her staff would mail a copy of the proclamation so it could be presented to the soldiers' surviving family members.
However, on June 5, O'Sullivan said he received a different kind of letter from Clinton's office, prompting his own terse response.
"I received what was supposed to be a proclamation from the U.S. Senate honoring our five veterans who made the supreme sacrifice in the Korean War," O'Sullivan said, reading from the June 6 letter he sent to Clinton's office. That letter, as well as a second note, have received no reply.
"Instead of the proclamation, I received a form letter that was simply addressed to 'friends.' I refused to present this letter (to the soldiers' families) as I felt it was an utter disgrace and a slap in the face to the families of our fallen war heroes from our U.S. senator," O'Sullivan wrote.
He described the Clinton letter to the Legion, which included "greetings" to attendees of the parade and ceremony in Queens County.
"I am grateful to our nation's veterans for the valor, strength of spirit and commitment. With a sense of duty and faith to our country, they have protected the life and liberty of all Americans," Clinton wrote in the letter. "Their dedication and sacrifice remind us that we must remain vigilant in our efforts to secure full freedom for every American and protect our interests around the world. It is important that we honor the service of our nation's veterans by making sure that we live up to our commitments to them."
O'Sullivan remarked, "Well, right away there, she doesn't live up to her commitments," referring to Clinton's decision not to issue the proclamation.
In his June 6 letter to Clinton, O'Sullivan reminded the senator that it was her office that made the offer of the proclamation in the first place and how he had spent over half an hour on the phone going over the details pertaining to each of the five war veterans to be honored.
"It is a complete disgrace for a high U.S. government official to offer a proclamation and then send a form letter to the families of veterans who died protecting the rights and freedoms of every American," O'Sullivan wrote in his letter to Clinton's office. "Apparently, you and your staff do not have respect for veterans, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that the American flag could always fly free."
In the letter, O'Sullivan said the matter could be set straight by giving the proclamation as promised, sending copies to the families of those honored and by "finally voting for the flag amendment (to the U.S. Constitution protecting the American flag from desecration, S.J.RES.4) that 80 percent of your constituents support, thereby showing support for all of our nation's veterans."
In 2001, Clinton indicated she would vote against the flag amendment but never had the chance as the measure failed to reach the Senate floor.
The five veterans (all who served in the U.S. Army) to have been honored in the proclamation were:
-- Private First-Class (Pfc.) Walter Gross, Company (Co.) C, First Battalion (Bn.), 19th Infantry (Inf.) Regiment (Reg.), 14th Inf. Division (Div.), born May 13, 1928, and died in a prisoner of war camp July 31, 1951. "Walter Gross was a friend of mine, we hung out together," O'Sullivan said. "He was discharged prior to the start of the Korean War, and he got called back by Truman. He arrived in Korea on Dec. 25, 1950, and was captured on New Year's Day (Jan. 1, 1951)."
-- Private Joseph DePietro, Co. 8, 2nd Bn., 38th Inf. Reg., 2nd Inf. Div., born Aug. 3, 1932, killed in action Oct. 10, 1951. "This was another friend of mine," O'Sullivan said. "In fact, I took this kid to Newark (N.J.) Airport when he went to Korea. He was killed in action on an attack on Hill 905 along Heartbreak Ridge...while assisting a wounded comrade."
-- Pfc. James Farrell, Co. K, 9th Inf. Reg., 2nd Inf. Div., born Aug. 7, 1933, killed in action Nov. 10, 1952, while defending "Old Baldy" (a North Korean hill). "Another guy I'm familiar with," O'Sullivan said. "I was coming back from R R (rest and relaxation) and was in a Repple Depple (Slang for Replacement Depot, where replacement troops enter and where troops being rotated home depart) waiting for my outfit to pick me up when this guy, Jimmy Farrell, yells out, 'Hey, O'Sullivan,' and sure enough, two weeks later, that kid was killed."
-- Pfc. Thomas August, 224th Inf. Reg., 40th Inf. Div., born Feb. 13, 1932, killed in action Nov. 17, 1952.
-- Corporal Ralph Ray Mitola, Co. C, 1st Bn., 23rd Inf. Reg., 2nd Inf. Div., born April 10, 1931, killed in action Aug. 1, 1952, by small arms fire during an attack on Old Baldy.
Phone calls to Clinton's offices in both New York City and Washington, D.C., were not returned. In press reports, Nina Blackwell, a Clinton spokesperson from the New York City office, said: "It's a sad and unfortunate misunderstanding."
David Williams, vice president for Citizens Against Government Waste, was quoted as saying: "Sen. Clinton made a promise she didn't keep. The Senate gives out these proclamations all the time. It's a simple voice vote, and it's crap like this that makes the public so cynical."
A spokesperson for the American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind., refused to comment, saying it would be "inappropriate." O'Sullivan emphasized that he was speaking only for himself and members of his "post and county" in Broad Channel, Queens County, N.Y. He also emphasized he would not be voting for Clinton whether she runs for re-election to the Senate or for president someday.
"I didn't vote for her in the first place," O'Sullivan said.
E-mail a news tip to Steve Brown.
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