Veteran’s Advocates March on DC in April 2006
By Staff Writer: Rick Townsend
January 16, 2006
May of 1931 - A band of unemployed, disabled, frustrated veterans, led by a former cannery worker by the name of, Walter W. Walters, arrived in Washington, DC. This group of former U.S. military personnel numbering around 1,000 came to the nation’s capital to demand Congress honor contracts made with them while they were in U.S. military service. Many of these were unemployed and homeless veterans, and they publicly vowed to remain in the nation’s capital until favorable legislation was passed. As the “weeks” went by, the so-called “Bonus Expeditionary Force”, (BEF) grew to more than 17,000. Many of these proven patriots took up residence at a camp outside of the city on the banks of the Anacostia River*; others made homes for themselves in vacant government buildings and even on the lawn of the Capitol. Despite the swelling numbers and growing tensions, the on-going demonstrations remained essentially peaceful at first. However, things were about to turn deadly.
Several weeks into the protest, on June 15th, the House of Representatives passed the Patman Bonus Bill, a measure authorizing the printing of $2.4 billion in “fiat money” to be used for cashing out veterans’ bonus certificates. This relief measure was promptly stopped cold in the Senate. Before adjourning for their summer recess, both houses of Congress offered a meager gesture to the veterans by agreeing to provide them with transportation money for returning to their homes. Most of the veterans were exhausted by their stay in the sweltering capital and accepted the funds; however, about 2,000 determined veterans remained. Metropolitan police were called in to disperse this remnant and violence erupted that resulted in the deaths of two policemen and two veterans.
On July 28, the depleted BEF group of veterans marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, chanting,
Hoover rang the bell,
Wall Street gave the signal
And the country went to hell.”
By this time, the public protest was into its 6th week. Hoover had had enough and summoned federal troops. An assortment of tanks, cavalry, infantry and a machine gun detachment moved in pursuit of the demonstrating veterans, forcing them out of the city. Tear gas was used to break up the assemblage at Anacostia Flats and the shanty town was burned to the ground. In the melee, more than 100 veterans were injured and a three-month-old baby died from tear gas inhalation. Some reports put the number of killed and injured much higher.
President Hoover claimed that the Army had used force far in excess of its orders, but that explanation made little impression on the public. If any remote possibility of Hoover’s reelection remained in mid-1932, it ended on that July day. Most Americans were disgusted by the spectacle of heavily armed troops moving against destitute former servicemen who had fought for their country only a few years previously.
Now, some 75 years later, veterans and their families are planning another such March. This time, much like the last time, demanding our country keep contracts and promises made to our military personnel and their families.
On April 25th 2006, “Operation Firing for Effect” will kick off in Washington, DC. The two day project is a joint-operation consisting of grassroots veteran’s rights advocates and organizations nationwide. Project organizer, combat wounded and disabled Vietnam veteran, Gene Simes of Veterans for Veterans Connection (VFVC) is confident they will have a good turnout. In a recent interview, Simes said he has heard from many people concerning the plight of veteran’s affairs in this country. “We deliberately chose the middle of the week while all the government buildings are occupied to have this March, as our government has a tendency to leave town on the weekends. I am extremely pleased with the interest this project has generated thus far and we welcome all inquires,” Simes said.
According to Simes, The Veterans March is intended to bring attention to problems facing our veterans and retired military personnel. “We are going to be addressing everything from mandatory funding for the VA, to hometown health care for all veterans. We will also be questioning issues that affect our retired veterans and their families, such as increased co-payments and deductibles for health care coverage. In addition, we are insisting that federal laws created to protect veteran’s disability compensation from third party awards be enforced in state divorce court,” Simes stated. “The list goes on and on. From repeal of the USFSPA, to Project SHAD affected veterans, to real legal assistance for veterans filing claims with the VA, we have a full agenda,” Simes added.
Master Sergeant, James T. North, USMC, (Ret.), of Harrison Township, Michigan is another one of the organizers of the April 25th & 26th March for Veterans. North is a combat Desert Storm veteran with 21 years in the Marine Corp. North’s service record reflects numerous awards and accolades to include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal personally awarded to him by the Secretary of Defense in 1998. “We are pooling all of our efforts together,” North said. “The veterans of this country have grown tired of republicans and democrats playing political football with their earned benefits and services. We have come to realize, if veteran’s rights are to be protected, the veterans themselves will have to act. We must insist our government fulfill promises made to our men and women in uniform. Both during, and after active service,” North stated.
Vietnam combat disabled veteran and veteran’s rights advocate, Jere Beery of Jefferson Ohio has also pledged his support and active involvement in The Veterans March. Beery has an impressive 20 year track record of fighting for veteran’s rights. “Veterans affairs” is not a ‘special interest’ or ‘charity’ issue. It is a national debt and contractual obligation the American people have with the men and women that serve in our military forces. We all have a vested interest in protecting the rights and benefits of our military personnel and their families. Veterans affairs is really a matter of national security and directly related to enlistment and retention,” Beery said.
Fellow Vietnam combat wounded veteran, Dale Van Luven of Hermitage Tennessee is another veteran’s rights advocate helping promote The Veterans March. “We have a real chance to make a big difference with this March,” Van Luven said. “If our troops can serve 24/7, 365 days a year, all over the world, I can take two weekdays off and go to Washington DC for them,” Van Luven said.
For more information on Operation Firing for Effect and The Veterans March, April 25th & 26th, please visit; www.VetMarch2006.com Or contact;
Gene D. Simes, Chairman, Operation Firing for Effect
President, Veterans For Veteran Connection (VFVC)
Headquarters 1700 Waterford Road
Walworth, NY 14568
Office: 315 986-7322 Cell: 585 329-4711 Fax: 315 986-7334
James North - Jim.North@cambridge-na.com
Russ Scarvelli - Dsgt2@aol.com
Jere Beery – firstname.lastname@example.org
Dale Van Luven - Vietna467@aol.com