Richard Nixon: Supporter of Veterans
June 12, 2015
Here is another Richard Nixon story that reveals the measure of the man. On October 24, 1972, just before the presidential election, Nixon signed a bill increasing veterans’ educational benefits, which were made retroactive. After announcing that each veteran present would get a souvenir pen, a veteran, Larry Kirk, approached the president and shook his hand. Kirk was Army and had lost both legs below his knees in Vietnam, and part of one arm. Ken Hughes, in Fatal Politics, describes what happened then and later.
“[Kirk] hoped the president meant what he said about giving veterans ‘the first crack’ at jobs, since he’d applied for one as a White House Fellow. . . .’You want to be a White House Fellow?’ the president asked. ‘Seriously?’
“Kirk said he wanted to ‘continue to serve my country.’
“’It’s arranged,’ said the president. A press photographer captured the moment: Kirk looks relaxed and friendly, but modest; Nixon . . . angry. This spontaneous, heartwarming anecdote made the New York Times, Washington Post, and a lot of other papers, thanks to an Associated Press dispatch. Seven months later, the White House announced the selection of eighteen Fellows for the coming year; Kirk’s name wasn’t on the list.” [p. 126]