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In September of 1942, about nine months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy Special Warfare Command established a special ops group known then as the Scouts and Raiders. Today they are known as the Navy Seals.

Navy Seals

First Navy Seals Left Swimming on Their Own—James Rhodes

A young patriotic James Dean-type rebel, Lawrence "Larry" Taylor, wanted to get in on the action; but unfortunately he was too young to enlist. For Larry that was not an obstacle. He just lied about his age and off to boot camp he went. He volunteered for and was accepted into Scouts and Raiders training at a clandestine location in Florida. Because of his real age, he became the youngest founding member of what was to became "Seal Teams". As of last year, according to sources at the Navy Seal Museum at Ft. Pierce, Florida, Larry is only one of two surviving members of the original Scouts and Raiders volunteers.

"The training on the beach was rough, even for a young man in excellent physical condition," Larry once told me. "We had to squat walk miles quacking like ducks. At the end, your leg muscles burned like fire. One time a recruit complained and we were forced to duck walk back. We would probably have killed that guy later, but no one had any energy."

Larry also told me about being dumped into storm-tossed seas and how the teams had to form circles and stay afloat as long as they could without flotation devises and how teams had to race down the beach carrying telephone poles. Larry overcame all the hardships and earned his spot as one of the first elites to successfully complete "Seal Training."

The graduates were divided into three groups. Larry's team, under Admiral Ernest King, commander of SACO (Sino-American Cooperative Organization), was based in Calcutta, India, for operations into China, focusing on the Yangtze River areas. During this military service, Larry suffered ear damage from underwater explosions and while at a USO-type facility in Calcutta, Japanese operatives poisoned the beef supply, knowing only foreigners would eat hamburgers. Larry ended up in a military hospital for almost a month. Overcoming his near-death experience, Larry returned to duty without complaint.

I met the Taylor's shortly after my return from Vietnam. We worked together for over a dozen years in the San Francisco Bay area. Larry got me interested in horse racing and we, for a time, were frequent patrons at Bay Meadows. Larry often said when he passed away he wanted to be cremated with his ashes spread onto the track so he could "be with his money." He had an unusual sense of humor.

Navy Seals

After his retirement and relocation to Arizona, it was the Taylor family who assisted me with my issues of PTSD and getting reestablished in Arizona. Their help was life saving. Larry got me involved with community programs of the American Legion; we were BMX bicycle racing coaches; softball and baseball coaches; if some program were to benefit the youth, Larry was there and I tagged along not far behind.

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The Taylors relocated to Glendale, Arizona, to take care of Donna's mother who was in need of 24/7 care. Larry was not able to continue with his community volunteer work and entertained himself with the area's Elvis impersonators; baseball spring training; and big screen sports events hosted by one of the many Indian casinos. As his health declined, Larry sought help through the Veterans Administration only to learn what millions of us already knew when it comes to getting anything out of the V.A.: "We have no record of any event relating to any military incident resulting in your loss of hearing," and "There is no record of hospitalization in India regarding food poisoning."

So, bottom line—no help.

Larry's condition is now severe and although he has a long-term health policy, "It covers less than a fourth of actual expenses," Donna told me. "We are quickly running out of money and I don't know what to do."

After seeking advice from local organizations, including veterans help groups and the Veterans Administration-the best counsel was "Sell your house, then you would have the money." To which Donna replied, "Then where are we supposed to live?" It seems that because Larry never filed for service-connected pensions and now has assets through Donna (her mother's house) Larry is "not eligible" for V.A. benefits. Makes you wonder who writes such laws and why.

Donna's situation is sadly becoming more common. On the campaign trail, the saber rattling is deafening but what is not heard is the silence of the neglect of the warriors after their combat tours have ended. The politicians get their immediate pensions and benefits. Have they no shame or sense of decency?

Right now Donna is attempting to juggle finances so she can actually keep their home and also pay for Larry's mounting and enormous assisted living expenses. Do "we" support our vets or what? For our next war, I suggest only relatives of politicians serve. Then, and only then, will our national heroes get the services and respect they earned and not be treated as "freeloaders" which the government policies view us today!

jim rhodes

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James Rhodes