David Sanders Discusses House Resolution 23

Tuesday, July 11, 2006—Dr. David Sanders, candidate for the office of U.S. Representative for the 4th Congressional District of the State of Indiana, appeared at a press conference at 10:30 AM Tuesday, July 11, 2006 at the North (Main Street) entrance to the Tippecanoe County Courthouse in Lafayette.

He began by asking for a moment of silence to remember the Americans who have died or been wounded serving their country in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We are here today to discuss the merits of House Resolution 23, The Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act of 2005. World War II Merchant Marines from all parts of Indiana brought attention to this bill during their convoy last week through the 4th District.

"Upon signing the GI Bill on June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, "I trust that the Congress will also soon provide similar opportunities for postwar education and unemployment insurance to the members of the merchant marine, who have risked their lives time and again during this war for the welfare of their country."

"These opportunities were not provided. Mariners were denied the following benefits that veterans of the other services received:

  • 52 weeks unemployment benefit at $20 per week
  • Free college education, which led to higher earning capacity
  • Low-interest, low-down-payment home loans
  • Disability benefits for life
  • Veteran Affairs medical benefits for life
  • Job preferences for veterans
  • Priority for small business loans
  • Shopping savings at PX (post exchange)
  • Mustering out pay

"H.R. 23 is not a special benefit for the World War II Merchant Mariners. It is small compensation for all of the benefits that they were denied for 40 years until they were declared World War II veterans in 1988. It represents long overdue Congressional recognition of the sacrifice and heroism of the Merchant Mariners in World War II.

"Congressman Buyer's response to the convoy was to attack the official veteran status that the Merchant Mariners have possessed for nearly 20 years. These individuals served honorably and many have official discharges from the United States Coast Guard for their World War II service. Many of them volunteered for service when they were too young to be allowed to enter the other services. It is shocking that Congressman Buyer would suggest that because the Merchant Mariners were volunteers that they should be denied veterans benefits. Has Congressman Buyer forgotten that we have an all-volunteer United States Armed Forces many of whom are serving their country in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan?

"This is not the first time that Congressman Buyer has questioned the veteran status of others. When he was made Chairman by Tom Delay Buyer stated, "While some veterans organizations like to create a theme, that 'a veteran is a veteran and there is no difference,' I disagree."

"The United States Merchant Marine Academy is in fact one of the five United States service academies. President Bush recently spoke there.

"The Merchant Mariners as well as other veterans have learned not to expect Congressman Buyer's support, and they are not asking for it. All they want is for the democratic process to work. H.R. 23 already has 258 Cosponsors in the House of Representatives including a majority of the members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee of which Congressman Buyer is Chairman. All the Merchant Mariners are asking is for a vote on the bill. Congressman Buyer is substituting his judgment for that of a bipartisan majority of his colleagues. Congressman Buyer has been given a little power by Tom Delay, and he has used it to overturn the democratic process and deny veterans the benefits that they have earned.

"Congressman Buyer's strategy is to play off one group of veterans against another and military retirees against veterans. This will not and cannot succeed. Veterans must stand united to demand the benefits that they have jointly earned through their service to this country.

"Congressman Buyer is torpedoing this bill and the World War II Merchant Marines and is waiting for them to die. This shameful behavior must cease. Steve Buyer needs to be discharged, and with your support we will accomplish this task this November."



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