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McCaffrey Calls for Veteran Support

November 12, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Americans should support hospitals and drug programs for Vietnam veterans, many of whom continue to suffer from drug abuse and alcoholism, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey says.

``Our nation needs to make this sacrifice for those who sacrificed so much in Vietnam,″ McCaffrey, now President Clinton’s leading drug adviser, said Tuesday at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Vietnam War Memorial.

Military honor guards and the black granite wall engraved with the names of 58,209 war dead were a backdrop for speeches and songs remembering those who served in the Vietnam War.

McCaffrey, a Vietnam and Gulf War Army veteran, said more than 303,000 soldiers were wounded in Vietnam, and at least 80,000 still suffer from severe service-connected disabilities.

Around 6 percent suffer from drug dependence, another 11 percent are alcoholics, and many are homeless, McCaffrey said.

``This continuing heavy human toll demands that we Americans vigorously support the finest possible health care in our Veterans Administration facilities,″ he said.

McCaffrey also pointed to the accomplishments of Vietnam veterans.

``Our comrades in arms are now leading all facets of public and private life,″ he said. ``We are governors, senators, members of Congress, mayors, Cabinet officials, sergeants major and commanders in all our services.″

Emmylou Harris brought the veterans to their feet and to tears as she sang ``50,000 Names″ with songwriter Jamie O’Hara.

Verses of the song described the wall, mementos left there and people searching for names, ``fatherless daughters, fatherless sons. There’s 50,000 names carved in the wall.″

``Boy Scout badge and a merit pin, little American flags waving in the wind. There’s 50,000 names carved in the wall.″

The ceremony also marked the 15th anniversary of the dedication of the memorial.

Veteran Joe Castillo helped close the ceremony as he ended his cross-country journey on his horse, Indio.

Castillo read a list of names of his buddies who had talked about traveling the country together when they returned from the war, but Castillo was the only one who came home alive, said Jan Scruggs, who led the effort to build the wall.

Castillo decided to make the trip alone on horseback. He began in August in Fort Collins, Colo., meeting veterans along the way and having them sign an American flag he carried.

He ended the trip, still on horseback, by presenting the flag at the ceremony.

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