By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – The Armed Forces E9 Association at the Charlie R. Greene Memorial Hall on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Saturday hosted a presentation of Silver Rose medals to six local veterans who were "chemically wounded" at various times during their service. Medals are being held for two others who could not attend.
The seven-year-old Order of the Silver Rose, headquartered in Grand Blanc, Mich., has awarded the medals to more than 5,000 veterans who have submitted proof of illness due to exposure to chemical agents certified by the Department of Veterans Affairs along with copies of their DD-214 discharge certificates. The organization is trying to make the qualifications sufficient for a government-issued medal, hopefully the Purple Heart.
Saturday, District 55 State Rep. Ralph Sheffield of Temple presented the medals, suspended from ribbons worn around the neck, with the aid of E9 Association member Erwin Hunter, also a member of the Silver Rose order. Harker Heights mayor Ed Mullen also attended.
Saturday morning activities also included the association's third annual Stolen Valor Seminar by Chuck and Mary Schantag of the P.O.W. Network of Skidmore, Mo., about the federal Stolen Valor Act of 2006. The Schantags also headlined the second annual seminar in August last year.
None of the Silver Rose inductees Saturday are still in the service. Most are retirees. They include Command Sgt. Maj. George I. Musick of Harker Heights, Command Sgt. Maj. Albert L. Hundley of Killeen, Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Patrick Rodke of Temple, 1st Sgt. Louis "Big Ed" Edwards of Killeen, Cpl. Richard S. James of Killeen and Cpl. David M. Jones of Harker Heights. Awardees not present were Command Sgt. Maj. David R. Daniel of Harker Heights and Sgt. Maj. Leroy Jackson of Killeen.
Most of the chemical problems stem from the Agent Orange defoliant used in Vietnam, although diagnoses may list simply "herbicides," Hunter said. "It's been linked to 65 forms of cancer as well as diabetes," he said. "Other problems from the Persian Gulf War stem from depleted uranium."
The group's literature says that 300 veterans a day are dying from chemical-related illnesses that could be traced to military actions. It urges veterans who were in danger zones to contact the VA for annual screening.
Sheffield said his father was an Agent Orange victim. Though not a veteran himself, he listed a number of pieces of legislation he had successfully supported with the aid of state Reps. Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen and Sid Miller of Stephenville, including an exemption from ad valorem taxes for 100 percent disabled veterans.
The E9 Association is open to anyone who has attained the highest enlisted rank in any service. "E9" stands for enlisted pay-grade 9.
Mary Schantag described efforts of her group to identify persons posing as winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor and other major medals of valor defined in the Stolen Valor Act for personal gain, including defrauding the government for benefits. The group also collects names of persons it believes are posing fraudulently as disabled veterans or former prisoners of war.
"For a while after Vietnam, it was unpopular to be a veteran," she said. "Now that it's OK to be a veteran
again, phonies are coming out of the woodwork to lead parades, make speeches and otherwise get out there to get whatever they can."
She said the Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn't have the resources to pursue all suspected cases, usually "piggy-backing" prosecutions with charges of other crimes. She said state governments should pass laws similar to the Stolen Valor Act so that state and local authorities can investigate suspects.
Information on the Armed Forces E9 Association and Saturday's activities is available from national adjutant and chief operating officer Earl Williams of Nolanville at (254) 680-4205 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Don Bolding at email@example.com or (254) 501-7557.