Dalles Chronicle: Second run to change clinic name

April 15, 2015
In The News

Dalles Chronicle: Second run to change clinic name

 

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden is making a second run at getting the local veterans’ clinic named after Loren Kaufman, a soldier who received the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Korean War.

“I’m going to reintroduce the bill this week and we’ll see where it goes – but I feel pretty confident about it this time around,” said Walden during a Saturday visit to the Oregon Veterans’ Home in The Dalles.

Last year the Wasco County Commission asked Walden, whose Second Congressional District includes Wasco and Hood River counties, to honor the life and service of Kaufman by getting The Dalles Community-Based Outpatient Clinic renamed in his honor.

The entire Oregon delegation signed on to the bill last year but it failed to gain traction in the House or Senate.

Kaufman was born and raised in The Dalles and enlisted in the Army one week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

He spent three years in combat during World War II and then went on to serve in Korea as part of the Second Infantry Division.

On Sept. 4, 1950, his company was attacked near Yongsan in South Korea.

During the firefight, Kaufman twice charged enemy lines while firing his rifle, throwing grenades, using his bayonet and seizing an unmanned machine gun to fight off the enemy.

For these actions and “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call,” he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

However, the decoration was given posthumously as Kaufman was killed in action Feb. 10, 1951, and laid to rest at Willamette National Cemetery.

The Mid-Columbia Veterans Memorial Committee has dedicated a monument in his honor at Kelly Viewpoint near Sorosis Park.

Jodie Cochenour and Robert Maxwell, representing MCVMC, were present during Walden’s tour of the veterans’ home that was led by Dallas Swafford, program director.

Also present was Wasco County Commissioner Rod Runyon, who organizes a yearly visit to the home as the Northeast District captain for the Patriot Guard Riders.

The Congressman was welcomed by Greg Payne, a disabled Vietnam veteran who served in the Army.

“I think they are going to give me a little tour to see your house,” Walden said to the former soldier.

“Welcome to my home,” said Payne. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else – if I have to have a place to die, this is it.”

“Or to live,” said Walden, who pushed the soldier’s wheelchair into the lobby for a group picture.

Swafford answered Walden’s questions about military artwork, including vintage recruiting posters from World War II and medal exhibits contributed by local families that graced the walls of the home at 700 Veterans Drive.

The clinic that could soon bear Kaufman’s name is sited just to the west of the home.

Walden also spent time visiting with Harold Elliott, an Army veteran who earned a silver star in Vietnam for courage and bravery on the battlefield.

Elliott gave Walden a tour of his room, which had a wall filled with memorabilia from his service, along with the framed citation that accompanied the Silver Star.

“I was in the right place at the wrong time,” the veteran said of his actions in combat.

Swafford and Van Moore, senior vice-president of Westcare Health Care Management Service, which oversees daily operations at the home, took Walden to see the fenced garden under construction in the Memory Care Unit.

He was also taken into the multi-sensory room that is set up to put residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s in a relaxed mental state to recapture important memories.

“It was an honor and privilege to spend time with some of our veterans,” said Walden of the more than one hour visit.

“We need to make sure that our VA system is taking care of these men and women and giving them the benefits they have earned through their service to our nation.”