29th Congressional District Veterans Forum
Houston, TX – Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) made a special service medal presentation to World War II veteran Marcos Barelas at Green’s annual Veterans Forum at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 581 in Houston on Saturday.
“It’s an honor for me to assist this hero to obtain the medals he earned more than half a century ago,” Green said. “We are forever grateful for the risks he took for the benefit of our nation.”
Barelas was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942, where he served with the HQ Company 1st Batallion, White Combat Team and the Composite 5307th (Provisional). He volunteered for hazardous jungle warfare mission in Burma with Merrill's Marauders. On one occasion, Barelas walked 14 miles barefoot because his boots had given out, and over the course of his service he contracted malaria, deadly mite typhus, dysentery and other potentially fatal diseases. He continued fighting bravely, and was honorably discharged in 1945.
Every member of the Marauders received the Bronze Star, and the unit received the Presidential Unit Citation for accomplishing its missions under extremely difficult conditions. In addition to the Bronze Star and Presidential Unit Citation, Green presented Barelas with the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal and Bronze Star Attachment
(double), World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, and Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII.
At the forum Green also heard veterans’ concerns and various veterans’ service organizations provided information on health care and disability and pension benefits. Green also spoke about Congress’s recent action on veterans’ issues. He mentioned that the FY 2008 budget included the largest veterans’ funding increase in the history of the Veterans Administration, which he said will pay for 1,800 new claims processors. Currently there is a 400,000 claim backlog causing a 177-day average wait for veterans to access earned benefits.
Green also said recent legislation gives American troops a 3.5 percent pay raise, improves Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury care at military facilities, prevents TRICARE health care increases for troops, and makes progress toward ending the Military Families Tax on survivor benefits and the Disabled Veterans Tax on retirement benefits for combat-related military disabled retirees.