Friday, January 16, 2009

Is This How We Treat Our Poets? Is This How We Treat Our Vets?

Richard Leck (1933-2008)

Words Like Kudzu Press poet, Richard Leck died in New York on December 19, and the Pittsburgh-based small press has been working non-stop to try to get him buried. He was a vet, a poet, a storyteller, an artist, an actor, a Greenwich Village cafe habitue, and a sanguine soul, but he died with no next of kin; his body is still in the New York morgue; WLK has been appalled at the amount of red tape involved and at the callousness of Veterans Affairs.

The Village Voice ran a great story yesterday and it got some attention from the NYC Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs. If all goes well, the city may pay for a proper military burial after all. But they are waiting to hear whether the VA cares to approve this burial, which may put the process back to square one.

Richard was drafted and served in the US Army during peacetime between Korea and Vietnam. He saw young men die in combat training at Fort Dix, and served at the first Nike anti-aircraft missile base in New York. He wanted and deserves a dignified military burial in a national cemetery. The VA has been a stone wall: "This person is out of luck," is what one VA official told Richard's friend, Ms. Winn, when asking for the VA's help.

Digging Pitt implores our Pennsylvania readers to write a short note to Senator Arlen Specter, who sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee in the senate. We implore our New York readers to write to the Mayor's Office for Veterans Affairs. The politicians need to know that the bad press is indeed getting out: The Veterans Administration lets its vets fall through the cracks in life and in death.

Links for both Pennsylvania and NYC and suggested message are as below:

Pennsylvanians: For Arlen Specter's contact form click here.

New York City voters: For the Mayor's Office for Veterans Affairs contact form, click here.

A suggested message you can cut and paste is here:
[Issue: Veterans; or Subject: US Vet languishes in city morgue]

I read an article in this week's Village Voice online about recently
deceased US Army Veteran, Richard Leck. It's shameful to hear about
any of our vets enduring homelessness, and I hated to hear that Mr.
Leck may go to Potter's Field, or that his burial may be delayed any
further. Is this how we treat our vets? I hope you will see to it that
the VA gives him a proper burial.

Words Like Kudzu Press thanks you.

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