Following a week of controversy in the wake of revelations surrounding the scandal at VA hospitals nationwide, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki submitted his resignation to President Obama on Friday. But should he have resigned? Should he have had to resign? And will his departure make a difference?
Those questions are still being discussed, even now that Shinseki has stepped down – but those were also the questions at the heart of the conversation all week long.
On Tuesday, WCHL’s Aaron Keck invited Fred Black and Lee Heavlin to the studio to discuss the issues surrounding the VA – not just Shinseki’s role, but also the scandal itself. (Or both scandals, more accurately: what made the news initially was the allegation that VA officials had deliberately covered up long wait times at VA hospitals, but the fact that veterans were waiting so long for treatment is a separate scandal in itself.) Black and Heavlin are both veterans; Heavlin currently serves as post commander at the American Legion Chapel Hill, and he also took the opportunity to reflect on Memorial Day and the commemorative ceremonies that had just taken place in Chapel Hill.
While Black and Heavlin were both concerned about the scandal, both men also observed that veterans do receive good care at VA hospitals – a fact that’s often lost in the current controversy. Black in particular argued that Shinseki’s departure would not make much difference in itself; Black has worked with Shinseki in the past, and vouches for his character as a concerned and dedicated official.
Listen to their conversations below, from the Tuesday Afternoon News with Aaron Keck.
To commemorate Memorial Day, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars placed flags next to graves at Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery, to honor those who died in service to our country.
This took place on Saturday and Monday. On Memorial Day morning, a service followed on the plaza.
It was led by VFW Editor, Blogmaster and Storyteller Lee Heavlin, who served for 30 years in the Navy, and retired as Master Chief Petty Officer.
Heavlin reminded everyone that this is not just a day about mattress sales or cookouts.
Here at home, it’s about honoring those who returned from wars and played a big part in building UNC and the Chapel Hill community.
“Memorial Day, to avoid any confusion, is all about remembering the dead who died in service of their country,” said Heavlin. “We’re talking about people who fell in the battlefield, or had an accident, or something caused their death while they were overseas, or somewhere in the states in the service of their country.”
He also reminded everyone that the ground they were standing on is slated to be, at some point in the near future, the Veterans Memorial at Chapel Hill.
VFW Chaplain Garland Neville of Carrboro led a prayer at the ceremony.
He wore his Army Airborne wings, with two stars that signify his two combat jumps in Korea.
He joined the 11th Airborne when he was 16 years old, and went to jump school in Japan before being sent to Korea. He said that joining up when he was very young may have helped him get past some of the horrors of war, unlike “some of the older guys.”
Still, he recognizes the great importance of organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, where vets can talk to others who share that bond common experiences.
“Being a member of the VFW, like in Pennsylvania, they had a bar,” Neville recalls. “And people would go in there and talk. And a lot of the veterans – each one would tried to outdo the other one on what they did in combat.
“But you get a lot of this out of your system, you know? It’s good to talk about it. And the ones who go home and sit in their rocking chair and don’t talk about it – they’re the ones that wind up with some kind of sickness later.”
Bobbi Stogner attended with her husband, longtime WTVD News Anchor Larry Stogner.
Her father, James Clyde Welch, Jr., was laid to rest about a month ago at Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery.
He was a Lt. Colonel in the Army, and served overseas during the Korean War. His father was also a career Army man and West Point graduate who served in World Wars I and II, as well as Korea.
Stogner said it’s important for all Americans to remember what this day is really all about, even if they’re not involved personally with the military.
“When we’re not involved with a close family member that’s in the service,” said Stogner, “or we didn’t personally serve in the Army, we take it for granted. And I think, to be here, and to see all these flags, to remember how many people really have given their lives to maintain that freedom for us – I think it’s important.”
Everett “Bud” Hampton is 90 years old. He’ll be 91 in November.
The Kannapolis native joined the Marines in July, 1942, and became part of the 4th Marine Division at Camp Lejeune a few moths later.
He saw combat in the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian, and even got wounded by a Japanese soldier’s hand grenade in Iwo Jima.
Afterward, he returned to North Carolina, and attended UNC from 1946 until 1950. Then he was called back to serve in Korea, where he commanded a rifle company for two years.
Hampton retired as a Major from the service in 1965, and went on to work for the University of North Carolina, first as a loan officer or five years; then as the business manager for the Department of Surgery for another 18.
He and his World War II comrades gather at least once a year. And he attends this Memorial Day service in Chapel Hill every year, without fail.
“You just can’t forget some of the men and buddies that you had during all those battles,” said Hampton. “You lose so many of them.”http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/vfw/
This Memorial Day, the Chapel Hill Veterans will honor the soldiers who have deceased, particularly those who have made an outstanding impact on the Chapel Hill community.
Starting at 8 am tomorrow, May 26th, the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Chapel Hill will host a morning service at the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery.
Attendees are also welcomed to participate in the Memorial Day Open House.
It is set to take place at American Legion, Post 6, located at 1714 Legion Road, and begins at 10 am.
The event will feature various displays and a memorial service. Bart’s Old North State Barbecue and Maple View Ice Cream will be available to all.
At 11 am, there will be a Memorial Day Ceremony, followed by a wreath-laying at the flag pole. A concert from the Chapel Hill Village Band will commence at 1 pm.
To close the event, there will be a National Moment of Silence at 3 pm.
In addition, the town of Carrboro will be closed tomorrow in observance of the Memorial Day Holiday. As a result, there will be no yard waste collection that day. Instead, Tuesday and Wednesday, May 27th and 28th, will be scheduled for yard waste collection.
To learn more about American Legion Post 6, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/memorial-day-preview/
Memorial Day will postpone Moral Monday, the well-known demonstrations against the North Carolina General Assembly’s legislative session, which kicked off last week.
However, NAACP President Rev. William Barber announced the protest will resume with a different twist on Tuesday, May 27.
Demonstrators are planning to meet in the capitol at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday for a question-and-answer session with members of the legislature about the issues at the forefront of the movement.
Protests are scheduled to return to the regular Monday-evening schedule the following week.
Sondra Stein, president of Durham Democratic Women, says she plans on questioning the legislature’s laws toward issues she believes are most pertinent to North Carolinians: voting ID laws, denying health care, and cuts to public education.
“This legislature keeps on cutting resources and taking away from this fundamental source of enabling people to accomplish their dreams and their goals and get some place,” Stein says.
Carrboro Alderperson Sammy Slade was present at the first protest of the first full week of the legislative short session, and says he believes in the importance of continuous demonstrations against the North Carolina Legislature.
“As money is influencing politics in extreme ways now that the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates for money, it’s even more imperative for communities to organize to counter what big money represents and speak for the people’s values,” Slade says.
Stein, who also attended last week’s event, says she looks forward to the coming weeks, which she hopes will bring change when elections begin in November.
“I hope they’re listening and watching,” Stein says. “There were thousands of us who were out there once again on Monday night and we’ll keep coming back until we have some sign that they do care about what we’re saying.”http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/moral-monday-protests-postponed-memorial-day/
Gas prices are expected to climb close to $2.63 a gallon, 20 cents higher than at this time last year, while a record-high of nearly 980 thousand North Carolina drivers will be travelling by automobile this Memorial Day weekend, despite these rising prices. But there is another factor drivers should watch out for on the road this weekend.
Those traveling this weekend should be on the lookout for gas stations that sell E15 gasoline, a form of fuel that contains 15% ethanol made from corn in order to reduce dependence on fossil fuels in the US.
“While it has been permitted by the federal government… pushed a little bit because Congress said we wanted reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” says manager of public affairs for AAA Carolinas, Tom Crosby, “it has not yet been approved by 95% of the manufacturers that put cars on the road today.”
Crosby warns about the risks that could result from using E15 in vehicles that are not approved. “It can damage your engine; it can invalidate your catalytic converter. Many manufacturers will void the warranty that you have if you use E15.”
Those driving, especially to locations out-of-state, are advised by Crosby and AAA Carolinas to check service station pumps and consult the owner’s manual for their particular vehicle to confirm they are using the correct fuel.
To better estimate fuel costs, click here to input starting city, destination, and the make and model of their car.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/e15/
CHAPEL HILL-Memorial Day is a time to remember all different kinds of war veterans, but one local event will be especially dedicated to the women who have served the country.
The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project is a library collection at UNC-Greensboro that documents women in the military through various artifacts. On Monday, project curator Beth Ann Koelsch will come to Chapel Hill’s American Legion Post 6 to discuss the impact of females who have served the country.
“We encourage all female veterans to come by and talk to her and maybe even participate in an oral interview at some future date,” says American Legion Post 6 Commander Lee Heavlin. “Or, if they have something they want to drop off for the collection, they’re also welcome to do that.”
The project has existed at UNC-G since 1998, and the collection includes photographs, uniform items, and letters, among other items.
Heavlin says a variety of women in the UNC system have direct ties to the military.
“The university is a magnet for people from the military,” he says. “A lot of them go into nursing and such. Those uniform items and their histories…have a story to tell.”
The project’s memorabilia will be on display at the American Legion following an open house that begins at 10:00 a.m. on Monday. For more information on the Betty H. Carter Women’s Veterans Historical Project, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/american-legion-post-6-to-honor-women-in-the-military-for-memorial-day/
ORANGE COUNTY-: Numerous local residents are on vacation this weekend in honor of the Memorial Day holiday, and several local establishments and services are also taking a break.
In Chapel Hill, the Community Center will be closed Monday, along with the Plant Road administrative office. Residential trash collection will not take place on Monday, and all Monday routes will instead move to Wednesday, May 29. However, curbside recycling will go on as scheduled.
The Chapel Hill parking office will be closed on Monday, but there is some good news for motorists: All on-street parking meters will be free for the day, along with the Wallace Deck and town-owned lots. The Chapel Hill Transit will not operate at all on Monday and will resume normal service on Tuesday. The Chapel Hill Public Library will be open from 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
A number of county-wide programs are also taking a break; the Orange County Landfill will be closed on Monday, along with all Solid Waste Convenience Centers and the Solid Waste Administration Office. However, curbside recycling collections will go on as scheduled. All Town of Hillsborough offices will be closed on Monday, along with the Main Library in Hillsborough, the Seymour Center, and the Orange Senior Center. Orange County Animal Services will be closed Monday, and residents should call 911 to report any animal-related emergencies. OWASA offices will be closed Monday, but University Lake and the Cane Creek Reservoir will remain open from 6:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.
In Carrboro, garbage collection also will not take place on Monday. Monday trash will be picked up on Tuesday instead. The Orange County Carrboro Branch Library will be closed Sunday and Monday.
Don’t forget that registration for Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation’s summer programs for non-Chapel Hill and Orange County residents also begins on Memorial Day, starting at 8:30 in the morning. Non-residents may register in person at the Parks and Recreation Administrative Office, the Chapel Hill Community Center, Hargraves Community Center, or Homestead Aquatic Center; however, since not all of those locations are open on Memorial Day, interested participants may also register online here.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/local-closures-for-the-memorial-day-holiday/