The Few, the Proud, the Forgotten
Hank Investigates: The Few, the Proud, the Forgotten
In harm's way on the Mediterranean 1987, his guided missile cruiser crossing the Libyan line of death: Petty Officer Frank Cormier.
"We were there to answer the call if anything happened at moments notice we were there."
Strategic Air Command, missile combat crew commander 1988: Air Force Captain Regina Jackson.
"Every time we went on alert at pre departure my colonel told us, ‘this is a cold war ladies and gentlemen, go out there.’"
Army Spec 4 Frank Teehan: Military police, Korea, 1999.
"I was in a potential war zone."
Call them heroes, call them patriots, but in Massachusetts, don't call them veterans. These and thousands of other Bay State men and women, who volunteered, put their lives on the line and were honorably discharged came home to a shocking surprise. State law says only wartime vets are eligible for benefits... their military duty didn't count! State Veterans Commissioner Tom Kelly.
"Right now, are all veterans created equal?"
Medical and housing expenses, college tuition, tax breaks, retirement credits, veterans license plates. Wartime vets can get these state benefits as thanks for job a well done.
Kevin O'Connor, Office of Veterans Services
"We wouldn't have the freedoms we have today if it weren't for men and women in uniform."
But every day, in town veterans offices like these: Some men and women in uniform, asking for help, get turned away.
"What do they say?"
"They’re angry, they're upset, this is the first time they've heard they're not a veteran."
Keith Chase joined the Marines at age 17, graduated intelligence school, certified in anti-tank, small arms, security, assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Africa in 1981.
"I was ready to do whatever necessary to defend this country and this country's allies."
Honorably discharged, Sergeant Chase came home to Massachusetts and tried to get help with local college tuition. He was told: he did not qualify.
"And I said but I'm still in, I'm a sergeant in the Marine Corps. He said, ‘yes Keith, but under Massachusetts law you're not a veteran.’"
Captain Jackson came home to Massachusetts and got the job as her town's veterans agent. A few weeks later: the state took the job away: saying she wasn't a veteran.
"I thought they were calling me a liar. I said of course I'm a veteran, here’s my paperwork, you know, here’s my pictures. I was in the air force, what are you talking about."
Turns out state law says she could only be the assistant: lesser job, lower pay.
"It’s wrong, it’s wrong, it’s just insulting and it should have been fixed years ago."
If fact, last year the legislature did vote to fix it, but then Governor Cellucci vetoed the change. Now some worry with Governor Swift slashing the budget this year's bill will also be killed.
"Is it too much to ask the commonwealth to spend $250,000 to recognize the sacrifices these men and women have given the commonwealth? I think not."
Even the state's vets commissioner admits: The states law is unfair.
"Sometime the wheels of getting legislative change grind exceedingly slow."
Commr. Tom Kelly, Dept. Of Veterans' Services
Thousands of soldiers and sailors, all ready to fight in faraway lands -- they never imagined their biggest battle would be at home. Sailor Frank Cormier can't even get a veteran’s license plate.
"We put our lives on the line to protect our country I did not have the ability to control peace or war during the time I was in and to differentiate between the two is absurd."