Shout out to an Arizona Gold Star Mom

17 Oct 2007 08:57 am
Posted by: Donna

This past Saturday I attended the quarterly State Committee Meeting in Tucson.  During the main meeting PCs from all across the state were updated on the happenings in the state party and voted assent by acclamation on 3 non-controversial resolutions (anti-payday loans, anti-particulate pollution, and pro-labor).  Prior to that, those who were interested in particular caucuses had a wide menu of morning meeting choices.  I decided to go to the Federation of Democratic Women and the Veterans caucus meetings. 

The Vets meeting was led by Jeff and Salette Latas.  You may remember that Jeff ran for Congress in LD8 last year.  Jeff is a totally badass retired Air Force Colonel and Gulf War I vet.  The man has military cred in spades, which makes it that much cooler that he’s a progressive Dem with all kinds of good ideas about how America can do a better job of taking care of our citizens, and especially those who have served and sacrificed.   Jeff talked about improving educational opportunities for veterans, who often have to navigate a confusing melange of bureaucracy to get the benefits they’ve been promised.   

Then we had a discussion about the appalling treatment of thousands of soldiers who have returned from Iraq with serious physical and mental injuries.  They are being denied benefits because they allegedly have “preexisting personality disorders”.  Said disorders should ostensibly have been discovered during the rigorous medical screening that prospective servicemembers are supposed to undergo prior to bootcamp (I recall being taken through a grueling and exhaustive gamut of examinations and interrogations during my processing) but I guess that’s not the case.   You can be struck by a rocket in Ramadi, but your resulting headaches and hearing loss are not the government’s problem. There was something wrong with you before you enlisted. Here’s a follow-up from the initial Nation article about the ordeal of Spc. Town and others:

Have I mentioned how much I hate the military-industrial complex?

Jeff had to leave the meeting halfway through to go to another meeting so Salette took over. The Latases had a son named Jesse. He insisted on following in his dad’s footsteps, despite being diagnosed with leukemia as a 17 year old in 2002. He was treated and recovered enough to enlist in the Army in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in 2005. A year later his cancer returned and he was transferred back stateside for a cord blood transplant.

Salette described her son’s final weeks at Walter Reed. According to her, it was every bit the hellhole we heard it was. Jesse’s room was so filthy that she had to clean it. He was forced to wake up and call his unit at 4am every morning. Real nice way to treat a hero and his mom, isn’t it?

Jesse lost his battle on July 29th. His parents are undaunted in their quest to speak truth to power. They visibly hold the tears back as they addressed us at the meeting. Salette told us about her efforts to get a license plate in Arizona to honor Gold Star Mothers. A Gold Star Mother is a woman who has lost a child to war. The custom was officially instituted in 1917 to recognize the sacrifices and sorrow of mothers. In WW2, front porches across the nation proudly displayed the blue stars of sons and daughters who were serving overseas. When a gold star was sewn over the blue one, you knew that this mother had lost her child.

Salette talked about the changes that have occured in our communities since then. Front porches are largely a bygone relic. But we do spend an awful lot of time in our cars, on interminably long commutes to our destinations. So she made the point that our bumpers and license plates are the means through which we transmit messages about who we are and where we’ve been. I know that I always notice what people are conveying about themselves on their vehicles throughout my travels through the Valley. I make it a point to read their bumper stickers, placards, and license plate frames. But there’s something about the actual license plate that really captures my attention. When someone goes to the trouble to get a plate to express their particular status, be they a veteran, an owner of an alt-fuel vehicle, a supporter of organ donation, etc, I am inclined to pay even more attention to it.  The anti-abortion folks are pushing for a “Choose Life” plate right now. 

Salette says that although there are some Dem legislators who are eager to take up her cause, they are stymied by a GOP majority who doesn’t give much weight to Dem sponsored bills.   Plus, the Republicans like to hang their names on anything having to do with vets.  Okay fine, so get a Republican legislator to champion it, right?  Not so easy.  Apparently there are 2 prominent GOP Senators who are known to adamantly oppose the introduction of any more specialty license plates. (Somehow I think they’ll make an exception for the anti-abortion one.)

I will try to keep y’all posted on her efforts and plan to help out in any way I can. Oh, and Salette is running for Oro Valley Town Council, so next time you see her give her some support, and maybe some cash.

1 Comment(s)

  1. Comment by Daniel Patterson on October 17, 2007 3:15 pm

    Salette Latas has my support. As a hopeful Dem legislator (LD29), I would support her cause.

    Daniel Patterson

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