By Arthur H. Gunther III
In this time of holiday parties, we went to see Jerry Donnellan at his West Nyack, N.Y., home. For decades now, he has been the veterans guru for Rockland County, and Jerry’s daily, weekend and evening life is centered around helping his fellow comrades. It is a God-given thing he does, and though Jerry is a local government employee, his job is to muddle through the red tape officialdom creates so that the ordinary soul receives his/her due, sometimes in an extraordinary fashion.
The holiday affair was just fine at Jerry and MariEllyn’s place, as it always is since they are humble, gracious hosts. What made this year special, though, was that Jerry told us more than half a million souls have now been afforded treatment at special veterans clinics throughout the U.S., apart from the usual veterans hospitals. Not too many years ago, there were no veterans clinics, and those who served under our flag often endured the indignity of the bureaucracy in getting an appointment and/or treatment at the vets hospitals. Not enough funding, insufficient staff, long trips and the indifference of any large organization made our veterans wait and suffer even more. Government can sure shoot itself in the foot and then trip up its citizens.
Jerry saw the need for change, and he made his voice quite clear, calling upon a willing C. Scott Vanderhoef, the Rockland County executive, to help provide limited funding for a local clinic in New City. Almost immediately the walk-in was a success, assisting vets in getting checkups, prescriptions and care. It has proven a blessing to thousands of ex-servicemen and women.
And the idea took off, spreading nationwide from Rockland in great numbers. All without a big fuss. All without D.C. direction, all without legislation that today surely would be debated, filibustered or somehow labeled anti-American.
Jerry Donnellan saw a need, and he and Scott acted on it, homegrown-style, can-do style, the sort that won a world war in the 1940s when creative Yanks took bulls by the horn and made things work on the battlefield even as the generals debated tactics.
Good work, fellows -- those guys then and Jerry and Scott now.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who lives in Blauvelt, N.Y. He is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org. This essay may be reproduced.