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Sen. Murray talks vets, floods with Chamber

Port Orchard resident P.J. Scott came back from Vietnam with a number of health concerns and has dealt with those problems over the years with chemical exposure damaging her vision.

So the message struck Scott close when Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) talked with the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce Thursday about supporting veterans’ health.

Scott addressed Murray, explaining that even after having 20 lasers used on her eyes, Murray still looked like “a very pretty Monet painting to me.” Scott bemoaned the lack after-hours and emergency service provided to her despite the nearby military facilities.

“If I find myself in urgent care, they tell me to drive to Seattle,” Scott said, noting that her vision prevents her from traveling long distances. “I find that pretty insensitive.”

Murray praised the Senate’s work in the last year improving services for veterans returning from Iraq, but noted that more work is needed.

“You are the exact reason why the Veterans’ Affairs told us we need to focus on community-based clinics,” Murray said to Scott, but decried the lack of resources for such an endeavor. “I think the most important thing we can do, with everything else going on, is take care of those men and women who have served us honorably.”

The military conversation continued as another South Kitsap resident asked when the military would pull out of Iraq. Murray said the process would need to be done carefully.

“I do get a lot of e-mails saying, ‘Just cut off the funds’ — (but) that would be the wrong thing to do,” Murray said, arguing that mistakes were made going into the war. “I do not believe we should get out of this war making mistakes as well.”

After the meeting, Scott acknowledged what Murray said she saw in military hospitals, with soldiers needing medical and psychological help.

“I’ve heard worse horror stories than she has,” Scott said, explaining that she hosts a public access program for veterans on BKAT in Bremerton.

The topic also struck Navy Veteran Charles Simmons, who also served in Vientam.

He has followed Murray’s work on veterans’ health for a while, and hoped she would continue to “fight the good fight.”

Simmons, like many others in the room, wanted to express some personal concerns to Murray, including the Iraq War and separation of church and state - Simmons explained that he believes the United States is a Christian country.

Others vented concerns to Murray over illegal immigration, gas prices and the disintegrating morals of America.

Murray briefly discussed the recent floods and encouraged those who feel they’re not getting what they need from the Federal Emergency Management Act.

“My staff and I are ready, able and willing to work with you or anyone you know that got something back from FEMA that they feel isn’t fair,” she said.

She noted that while in Washington she’s met with a number of people who suffered damages after the storm.

“It’s one thing to fly over it and see the miles and miles of devistation, it’s another to come back a month later and talk to individuals going through the process,” Murray said.

The appearance to the Chamber of Commerce was one of several stops the Senator made to South Kitsap Thursday, including a meeting with Emergency Response officials and a visit to the South Kitsap Industrial Area.

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