U.S. Rep. Donna E. Shalala visited American Legion Post 98 in Coral Gables on Presidents Day, Feb. 17. Some 30 people turned out for the informal gathering, including members of the post, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and other guests.
Rep. Shalala stopped by around noon after visiting the VA Hospital Facility in Downtown Miami. She brought Valentine’s Day cards handmade by school students for the veterans.
The question and answer session lasted about a half hour and covered a number of topics.
One was a proposed change sought by the American Legion to allow the children of Gold Star families — survivors of U.S. military personnel who died in the line of duty — to be afforded certain base exchange, commissary and morale, recreation and other privileges given to veterans. This resonated with Shalala, who said she has reason to support the idea.
“My aunt was part of a Gold Star family. Her husband died in World War II and my aunt kept the gold star hanging in her window until the day she died, to remind her neighbors of his sacrifice. There were other members of my family who served in the U.S. military, and my first cousin recently returned home from duty in Iraq.”
She fielded questions about the Veterans Administration and services provided by the hospital, about the way services at Baptist Hospital are billed directly to veterans instead of to the VA, and related healthcare issues.
Post Commander Michael Pelton asked, “Can something be done about the fact that during a government shutdown the other military services are still paid, but the members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary are not?”
She promised to see what could be done.
Finance Officer Cliff Van Allen asked if she would adopt Post 98 to assist its efforts to secure help in the City of Coral Gables. She said she would.