Vets march 225 miles to nearest hospital

SAN ANTONIO — Twenty veterans, mainly in their 50s and from the Vietnam War, observed Veterans Day by marching 225 miles from the Rio Grand Valley area in South Texas to San Antonio to protest the lack of medical care in their area.

Up to 80,000 vets living in South Texas lack access to a nearby hospital, and the march sought to dramatize the great distance they must travel for medical treatment.

The marchers walked in relays and took six days to reach the Alamo here. Along the way people cheered and saluted the group, whose members carried the brightly colored flags of their military units.

Though a clinic exists in McAllen, Texas, vets must travel to faraway San Antonio to obtain an X-ray or dental care. A bus provides transportation once a week to the VA hospital in here, but offers no return trip for a week.

The Bush administration has been cutting back on the number of VA hospitals nationally, resulting in veterans experiencing long delays, sometimes for many months, in getting appointments for treatment. As some veterans have observed, this is how the administration shows its gratitude for the soldiers who have fought and been injured in our past wars and even in the present war in Iraq.