Veterans feel disrespected by GovGuam - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Veterans feel disrespected by GovGuam

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - Veterans Day is supposed to be a day set aside to honor the men and women who have fought for the freedom we enjoy. But on the eve of the holiday, veterans were protesting at the Veteran's Affairs Office today because the government has failed to pay the VA's water bill, leaving the office and its cemetery without water.

It's been five weeks since the Veterans Affairs Office has been without water both at its office in Asan and the Veterans Cemetery in Piti. A group of veterans participated in a protest at the VA this morning. Dededo veteran Ricardo Cruz says it's unfortunate that the government fails to provide necessary resources to keep the water on. With Veterans Day being Thursday, Cruz says he's discouraged from participating in festivities.

"Personally myself, since you asked me, I assume I should not be present for that day in celebration of veterans day. This is not the way to celebrate veterans day. A day before the federal holiday in observance of the veterans in recognition for their service for the country," he told KUAM News.

Veteran Tony Perez says it's the government's responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for veterans.  "This is the veteran's office here and veterans and their families come here to file their claims, get counseling or other things related to veterans affairs and a lot of these veterans and their families are somewhat disabled. so they need to use the bathroom, they have to use the bathroom right then and there rather than just leaving and going somewhere else to use the restroom," he said.

Veterans Affairs Office director Fred Gofigan says for the past five years, he's been asking for funding from the Guam Legislature to continue funding upkeep of the cemetery.  "If the request of myself and the veterans were acknowledged back then, we wouldn't be in the situation now. $150,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to the freedom we enjoy today and also the contributing - last year alone, the veterans, through the disabilities and home loans, they contributed $66 million to Guam's economy," he said.

Responsibilities to upkeep the cemetery once belonged to the Department of Parks & Recreation, but according to Gofigan the Legislature turned those responsibilities over to his office without additional funding.  He said, "I met with BBMR and they've gotten the bills and they say it has to go to the legislature for prior year obligations. So I submitted that to Lou Perez and we're waiting for that to occur and we're trying to see if they can transfer some money to pay for that."

In the meantime, Gofigan says Lujan Towing has donated a water tanker to his office until the water issue is addressed.

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