Friday, December 7, 2007

McCain Shows His Heart

Senator McCain speaks with heart and compassion to a fellow veteran who is struggling with life...

Disabled vet to McCain: 'I don't see point' in living
From the Portsmouth Herald/
PORTSMOUTH — "What good is it for me to be here alive?"

Greg Major struggled as he slowly uttered the question to Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain. Major, a Navy veteran, has a traumatic brain disorder caused by a motorcycle accident 22 years ago. He stood with a crutch and the arm of SteppingStones caregiver Ronnie Tomanio, and his words were monotone, poignant and powerful.

"I'm taking up valuable space and worthy subsidies to keep me alive. So why don't I just pass it off to someone else and just exterminate my life?"

"Greg, all I can say to you is thank you. Thank you for your family, thank you for your comment," said the senior senator from Arizona. "I believe every life is precious, and I believe all of us are God's children. And I will not lose hope that we will develop cures that will relieve the burden that you have ... I hope you will never give up your hope and your faith."

The touching exchange changed the tone of the environmental policy discussion to a conversation about life and death. Major remained in his seat and took back the microphone.

"But I think, wouldn't it be better to set me aside and let others consume?" said Major. "I just don't see any point continuing because it's difficult for everyone else to support me. It's pointless to sit here and use the resources when they can go to someone else and do much better."

Tomanio took the microphone from Major and asked the crowd of 125, some wiping away tears, whether anyone felt Major uses too many resources. The audience shouted "no" in unison.

"None of us believe that," added McCain. "It's not what America is about. That's not what our faith is about. All I can tell you is there are loving family members and loving neighbors and friends, who want to do all they can to help you live as long and as beautiful a life as possible. We value you and we cherish you."

Major, who served three years on the USS Spartanburg County LST 1192, received the injury in 1985 and was in a coma for five months. Doctors told his parents, Larry and Sally, they were either going to have to take him off life support or place him in a nursing home the rest of his life. If he lived, they said, he would never walk again. Two years later, the family visited Yugoslavia and Greg climbed a mountain on crutches.

After the forum, Tomanio said persuading Major to continue living is a daily struggle. But they do so by showing how he contributes to society, like the column Major and Tomanio write for the Portsmouth Herald Go & Do section in which they interview veterans.

"I didn't know he was going to say that ... but it's not just him saying that," said Tomanio. "If he's thinking that as a disabled veteran, don't you think there's hundreds of thousands of other disabled veterans thinking the same damn thing? And they're never going to get a chance to talk to somebody of that stature."

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