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One of the highlights of the year, of course, is the privilege of this committee of sitting and hearing the views of The American Legion with reference to what is needed in the way of veterans' legislation.
The American Legion, of course, is one of the most honored organizations in the history of our country. Many of them have contributed greatly to our national security, our defense and its freedom. As far as I'm concerned, there's no debt of gratitude that can ever be fully repaid to those who have worn the uniform of our country in time of war.
Chairman CRANSTON. Thank you very much, Senator Talmadge.
In the past we have had these meetings with the Veterans' Committee in the caucus room of either the Russell or the Dirksen Building so that those who accompany the officers and the commander could be present. Of course, I don't know why we are compressed into this small room today—because I would have liked the privilege of having all the members who accompany the commander to have been present. But I am sure there is a reason why we are here. And yet we have in the past been privileged to have more of you. And I see the hall is packed with people who would like to come in.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Stafford, and Senator Talmadge.
We hear today the commander of The American Legion. And I am for a moment just remembering in nostalgia the two national commanders who were from West Virginia, Louis A. Johnson, 1932–33, and Honorable Donald R. Wilson, 1951-52. The officers of The American Legion have informally, I think, been the advocate for that which is not only good for the organization of which they are members, but for the citizenry generally of the United States of America. I have never felt that you wanted to be set aside in your plea because your plea, frankly, is for America, for all of the people who live in this country. And I think that Commander William Rogers, who is our special guest, with his associates, and officers and members today, gives to us this further opportunity, Mr. Chairman, to hear the legislative and perhaps other types of programing that are constructive from the organization.
During the 94th Congress there were several laws that were passed, and I am sure that you are watching very carefully, as we must be watching, the Veterans Omnibus Health Care Act, the Veterans Education and Employment Assistance Act, and the Veterans and Survivors Pension Adjustment Act. These are programs that we want to know whether they are working, whether they are doing the job. And you are, of course, the people who can give us an assessment of your thinking, because in one way or another they are all programs that provide assistance and attention. You are not asking for something that is in the nature, ever, of a handout. You are only asking for the opportunity as good citizens to work with your Congress, both the House and Senate, of the United States, in the discharge not only of membership in your organization but in the duties of good American citizenship.
And in the 95th Congress we will find under the leadership of Senator Cranston excellent guidance, as we have had an excellent chairman in the past.
I think we have the problem, Mr. Chairman, of very carefully reviewing the implementation of the laws that were enacted in the 94th Congress. We are certainly going to be in study of those problems of the veterans in this country as concerned with housing, and the pension reform program. It might not be known by too many people, but there is the continuing problem of the Federal cemeteries and their relationship to the States in which they are located. And, of course, an overriding problem which concerns all of us at the present time, and which will be a continuing problem, is the problem of unemployment, as it affects those who are members of the organization and people in general.
So we continue not to be protective in the sense of protectiveness, but we continue in this committee, to have a real obligation, and that is to see that the protection—the adequate protection of the rightful benefits of veterans are not siphoned away in one form or another. And there do come those times in the history of our Nation when there are certain priorities that seem to surface all at once; that you continue doing the job that you did earlier in the Armed Forces of the United States and now as private citizens of working through your organization to come to counsel with us in a constructive way. And I as one member of this committee, and of the Senate, I welcome you.
Chairman CRANSTON. Thank you very much, Jennings. [Applause.]
The newest member of our committee, Senator Spark Matsunaga, of Hawaii, who is a highly decorated combat veteran himself, is now with us.
Sparky, if you have a few words to say at the outset that would be most welcome.
Senator MATSUNAGA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I, too, wish to join my colleagues in welcoming you, National Commander Rogers, and the members of The American Legion to the Washington scene. I congratulate you and other veterans' organizations for having saved the most important committee where veterans are concerned, this Committee on Veterans Affairs.
More and more, I'm sure you realize, and I realize, too, as a veteran, that as the memory of the past wars becomes dim, benefits for all veterans become tougher and tougher to gain, not only for themselves but for their widows and beneficiaries. I congratulate The American Legion for having been in the forefront to remind the Nation that the veterans have earned the rights that they seek and are not asking for any handouts. As a combat-wounded veteran myself I assure you that, through this committee, we will not let the Congress forget that. [Applause.] Chairman CRANSTON. Thank you, Sparky.
And another fine member of this committee, Senator Dick Stone, of Florida, is with us.
Dick, do vou have a very few words to say at the outset ?
Senator STONE. I think that a few words of welcome are in order. We are very anxious to hear from the Legion this morning and support the Legion's proposals.
Thank you all very much for coming here today.
Strom Thurmond has arrived, and before proceeding to Ed Muskie and the national commander, Strom will have an opportunity to speak.
Strom, do you want to say just a few words of welcome before we start?
Senator THURMOND. Well, The American Legion is one of the greatest organizations I've joined since Word War II and I'm very proud of it. I am glad to see you all here. [Applause.]
National Commander Rogers, Mr. Hamilton, chairiman of the legislative commission. Mr. Lenker, chairman of the veterans' affairs rehabilitation commission. Mr. Kraja, director of the legislative commission, and Mr. Golembieski, director of the veterans affairs and rehabilitation commission.
We are all delighted to have you here.
We are so glad to have our South Carolina commander, Mr. Ed Malloy, here, and Roy Stone, our national executive committeeman. Jim Hamilton is our adjutant. Abe Fennell and others are here.
Any of them in the hall stand up, I'd like to see you. [Applause.]
First, I want to say that Mr. Stone has been on the national executive committee longer than any man in the United States. He is one of the greatest Legionnaires we have had in this country. We are so glad you could come, Roy.
And the only thing I want to say is that I am very pleased that we are able to save the Veterans Affairs Committee. That was most important. Because I think the veterans would have been completely handicapped if this had not been done. Certainly, this could not have been accomplished without the help of The American Legion. The American Legion, its leadership, and members have every right to be proud of their
efforts in this regard. Now I think most of you feel like I do about the pardoning of those who ran, the draft dodgers. But I just want to make two points on this. One is that I think it's going to be a bad problem in the future. In the future if a young man is called to serve his country, and just runs off to Canada or Sweden or anywhere else, what inducement would it be to serve your country if he could come back and see that he'd get a pardon just like the Vietnam draft dodger did!
The other thing, it's a violation of Federal law for a man not to respond to the draft when he is called.
And why are we going to take out one category of law violators and say, "We're going to pardon you," and make all other law violators serve?
To my way of thinking, probably the worst violation of any Federal law is when a man is called to serve his country, and he refuses, and runs off and does not perform his duty. [Applause.]
One more item that we are going to have coming up here and one in which you are interested in because you passed resolutions on itis the Panama Canal.
Our country bought it and paid for it. It's ours. We need it to protect this country and the free world. And I would hate to see any treaty that's going to relinquish our authority to that. But I think you had better give attention to this because they are working on the treaty now, and the treaty may be coming up here to the Congress before too long. In my judgment, it would be a great mistake if we relinquish control of that canal. That's a very unstable government down there. They have got a dictator; he has no regard for people's lives. We hear a lot of criticism of some countries now having dictators, and they haven't shown any consideration to do business with them. And yet we are dealing with this dictator in Panama now.
And, furthermore, that dictator in Panama and his crowd are dealing very closely with Communist Cuba. I fear what would happen if we relinquished the safety of the Canal because it would end up in the hands of the communists. So I say let's keep the Panama Canal. [Applause.]
Chairman CRANSTON. Thank you, Strom.
Now, for purposes of introducing your National Commander, William J. Rogers, we go to a strong and outstanding Member of the U.S. Senate, Ed Muskie of Maine.
Ed, you may proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF HON. EDMUND S. MUSKIE, A U.S. SENATOR FROM
THE STATE OF MAINE
Senator MUSKIE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
First of all, I would like to congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, upon your election as chairman of this committee. The result is to lose your services on the Senate Budget Committee, which is our loss and this committee's gain.
But I would like to say to our guests assembled here that on the Budget Committee you were a most articulate and persistent defender of veterans' interests in our deliberations, and I expect you will continue that tradition here in this committee where you have also served.
Chairman CRANSTON. Thank you, Ed.
Senator MUSKIE. Second, I would like to say to our assembled guests that there is a connection between what is going to be said here this morning, and in other hearings between now and March 15, and what the Senate Budget Committee does with programs affecting veterans.
As you know, the Budget Act requires that all committees of the Senate report to the Budget Committee by March 15 their estimate of program needs in their areas of jurisdiction. It is a very important role in the budget process that the Veterans' Affairs Committee will play.
So, as I said to Commander Rogers earlier this morning, what he says here this morning will find its echoes in the deliberations of the Senate Budget Committee beginning March 15.
My role here is to introduce not so much the National Commander of the Legion, as an old neighbor and friend. He and I began to aspire to national leadership at about the same time. He succeeded; I failed. [Laughter.]
We have been taking a great deal of satisfaction from the fact that Bill Rogers was the first Maineac ever to be elected national commander of The American Legion. And for those who may be misled by the use of that word "Maineac," a Maineac is a fellow who is born in Maine and had the poor judgment to leave. [Laughter.]
ir 1 year Bill Rogers has left, but we have wished him well along ine. r. Chairman, I have a two-page biographical sketch of Bill Rogers h I would like to include for the record. I am not going to underto read it. I want to pay just a brief tribute to his qualities as a an being as well as a devoted Legionnaire going back over 30 11 Rogers has come up in life the hard way. As a matter of fact, as born only 35 or 40 miles from where I am now, and he and I n the same town now, Kennebunk, Maine. e had better get a little parochialism in here, Bill. ad we belong to the same golf club. He hasn't violated the turf of olf club very much during the past 10 years that he has been camning for the National Commander's job. He tells me that he plays ter poker game than a golf game. I suspect that has something to ith his attendance at so many conventions in each of our States, »ll as here in the Nation's Capital. , is widely admired and, I will say loved, in my State, not only in 'ans circles but in any area of community activity in every part of štate because he gives of himself generously; he gives of his com.on generously; and he has proven himself to be a distinguished ir of veterans and other citizens of my State. We followed his aign with real interest. We cheered him all along the way. And re delighted that he now appears before this distinguished come as National Commander of The American Legion. [Applause.] he biographical sketch of William J. Rogers submitted by SenaIuskie follows:]
LLIAM J. ROGERS, NATIONAL COMMANDER, THE AMERICAN LEGION, 1976–77
(Biographical Sketch) lliam J. Rogers, 55, of Kennebunk, Maine, the 1976–77 National Commander e 2,700,000-member American Legion, was elected at the final session of egion's 58th National Convention in Seattle, Wash., August 26, 1976. e first Maine Legionnaire to be elected head of the world's largest veterans lization, he is a member of New Auburn Post 153 of The American Legion, rn, Maine, where he has held membership since 1946. nmander Rogers is a veteran of World War II service as a Naval aviator in siatic Pacific Theater. He flew more than 30 combat missions and his decorainclude the Air Medal and Presidential Unit Citation. He was separated active duty in 1945 with the rank of Lieutenant Senior Grade, but is still nber of the U.S. Navy Inactive Reserve. rn in Auburn, October 30, 1920, he attended public schools there and was iated from New Hampton Prep School, New Hampton, New Hampshire, in
From 1939 until 1942 he attended Syracuse University, where he lettered otball, baseball and boxing. He left school and his studies in business adstration at the completion of his junior year to enter military service in d War II.
return to civilian life following World War II he became a field representafor the Maine Employment Security Commission, a position which he occufrom 1946 to 1954, when he became assistant superintendent of Bonafide į, Inc. During this period he also took special courses at Yale University.
1958 he became associated with United States Brewers Association, Inc., 'ashington, D.C., a trade association representing about 90 percent of United es beer production, and still serves that organization as Vice President for rnmental Relations. immander Rogers has been active in civic affairs, having served as a director uburn Growth Corporation, as a member of the National Council of the USO, ‘ict director of Boy Scouts of America and assistant State chairman of the
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