When we last checked in with John Roza five months ago, the Atascadero resident had a group of veterans going to bat for him in securing a Purple Heart he should have been given for wounds received in World War II. The affable 92-year-old is still waiting for his medal.
You may recall that John was in the U.S. Navy and deployed off Slapton Sands, England, in 1944 when he was wounded in a military screw-up called “Operation Tiger.”
The exercise was part of the run-up for D-Day, with allied troops landing on mock-Normandy beaches in southern England near Devon.
Roza was wounded and 749 American soldiers and 197 Navy men perished in the snafu that was hushed up for security reasons.
According to historian Charles B. MacDonald, whose account of Slapton Sands can be found in the Department of the Navy’s Naval Historical Center’s archives, Operation Tiger “was simply one of those cruel happenstances of war ... orders went out imposing the strictest secrecy on all who knew or might learn of the tragedy, including doctors and nurses who treated the survivors ... Nobody ever lifted that secrecy.” Such secrecy let John Roza’s record of wounds fall through the bureaucratic cracks.
Enter Chuck Ward, Tim Haley, members of the Marine Corps League Detachment 680 and VFW Post 2814. These folks have been seeking justice for John. They’ve been in regular contact with the Department of the Navy and have taken their case to Rep. Lois Capps, D-23rd District, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, whose 22nd District includes Atascadero.
McCarthy would seem like the logical guy to move the ball forward in getting John his Purple Heart: For starters, he’s a good Republican who shares his patriotism in Tribune Viewpoints on Veterans and Memorial days.
On Veterans Day 2007, he wrote: “Our veterans represent the best of this world ... We are forever indebted to them.” Well said; couldn’t agree more, congressman.
Yet it’s difficult to say whether McCarthy adopted John’s dilemma as a cause celebre. His office says he’s aware of the situation and they would get back to me one way or another. They didn’t get back to me.
Unfortunately, Ward hasn’t been all that successful with the congressman’s office, either.
Officially representing John as his counsel, Ward says the Retired Records Section in the Navy Personnel Command in St. Louis has been very cooperative. He says the same of his dealings with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C.
He adds that Capps’ office is sending him several forms to fill out and attach to a summary of John’s situation, then it will attach a cover letter from the congresswoman and forward it to the Naval Liaison Officer in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington.
“The attitude in Capps’ office is ‘How can we help you?’ ” says Ward. In contrast, McCarthy’s office “seems more interested in telling me all the things they can’t do rather than what they can do.”
Well, different members of Congress have different methods of dealing with their constituents. But one would think that McCarthy would leap at the opportunity to help John if for no other reason than to add weight to the sentiments he expressed in a Veterans Day 2008 Viewpoint: “Freedom comes at a price, and that sacrifice should not be forgotten. We should remember our veterans every day of the year.”
Indeed we should, congressman. And we’d like to see that attitude put into action by your helping to correct our government’s 66-year mistake by honoring John Roza with the Purple Heart he deserves. That would certainly make a meaningful Viewpoint for Veterans Day 2010.
Bill Morem can be reached at email@example.com or 781-7852.