Mr. Chairman and Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on
My name is William Clayton Sam Park. I am of Native
Hawaiian ancestry, a disabled veteran, who served as a combat
medic during the Vietnam War, and a retired Master Sergeant
with 3 years active duty with the U.S. Army and 21 years of
service with the Hawai'i Army National Guard. I am presently the
Veterans Program Director with Papa Ola Lokahi. Thank you for
the opportunity to address the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
My comments today are based on my experiences in that role, and
in particular with regard to situations faced by our returning
OEF/OIF National Guard and Reserve troops as they transition
from military to veterans status, and back to their lives in the
community. Though the impact of this current war will be my
focus, my work on a recent day in which the veterans I served
included an 88 year old WWII veteran from Guam and a 19 year
old Oahu Iraq War veteran reminds me to emphasize the message
of General Shinseki during his confirmation hearing for the
position as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
— we must care for all of our veterans. We cannot allow those
who have served their country at any time, in any role, to be
Having worked with community agencies for the past several
years in outreach efforts to our veterans, it is evident to me that
the challenges faced by our newest warriors and their families
remain great. As I have done in testimony before this Committee
in prior years, I would like to use the "stories" of those who come
to me to provide you with the human side of the statistics reported
to you by officials of the military or the VA.
Let me start with the experience of a full time, National Guard
soldier, activated for duty in Iraq and wounded during that
deployment. This individual was medically boarded with a
disability rating and then discharged from the National Guard.
Since his full time position with the Guard was his employment,
and being a member of the Guard is required for that employment,
this veteran is now without a job, without adequate income to
maintain his former standard of living, and without health benefits
for his family.
Next, consider the young man activated with his Reserve Unit
for his second tour in Iraq, and sent to the Mainland for training
despite the Unit knowing he had a medical condition likely to
limit his performance. He was returned to Hawaii because he was
not able to complete assigned functions; his Unit was deployed to
Iraq without him. He is now in limbo — he hears from the VA that
they cannot help him because he is still an active duty soldier.
The military tells him he is not truly on active duty since his unit
is overseas and he is here. Consequently, he has no income and
no access to health care.
A young Reservist wife from a State on the Mainland contacted
me after reading an airplane magazine article about the
community outreach work in Hawaii. Her husband, a medic, was
being deployed for the fourth time and she was fearful for his
physical and emotional well-being, but did not know where to
turn for help. She believed if she spoke with anyone in his
Command about her fears, or if word got to Command from any
other source she might share her fears with, this would reflect
badly on her husband's career. I hear from other wives of
physical or verbal abuse by their returning husbands. They are
fearful for their children, contemplating divorce, yet knowing that
the person they loved before he was deployed is still there
somewhere — desperate to find him again, but not knowing how to
do that or where to go for help.
In another situation, during a briefing with a Reserve Unit
about our community outreach efforts, I could see two young
women soldiers in the audience — one with that "thousand yard
stare." After the briefing she asked to speak with me "off-line"
about her experience while deployed in Iraq. This young woman
reminded me of one of my own daughters, and while she cried
while telling me of being raped in Iraq by a fellow soldier, I knew
I was limited in what I could do. She was fearful that she would
be booted out of her unit and possibly even lose her full time
federal job if she told anyone what happened. She felt she
certainly could not trust that the other soldiers in her unit would
be supportive, and anticipated revenge instead of support. One
can only wonder how many other women face this situation alone.
I am so thankful that she had the courage to trust me, and that I
have a network of people and organizations in this community
available as resources in such situations. In other situations, when
the individual is eligible for VA care, I do everything possible to
bridge the trust and get the person to see one of our caring VA
Since I last testified to this Committee in 2007, I have seen
changes in the VA, such as more emphasis on outreach and more
visible services for our women veterans. But, as General Shinseki
stated - we must care for all of our veterans. There are still those
who do not reach the safety net of the VA through the established
channels, or who are frustrated in attempts to seek help by
bureaucratic obstacles. Transitioning home is still not easy.
Senator Akaka's comments in 2007 still hold true: "....more can
be done to assist veterans and their families in the...reintegration
of the wounded or injured veterans into their community."
Mahalo nui loa for allowing me the time to share my mana'o
with you today. Mr. Chairman, I would be pleased to answer any questions that you or the members of the Committee have for me
at this time. Aloha.
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