Arkansas veterans organizing.
Bill Harris, a self-professed Marine grunt who served in the Korean War, says it started with the recent events that led to the closure of the Veteran's Home in Little Rock: reports of filthy, ill-maintained facilities, the illegal collection of $600,000 from veterans, and poor management that infuriated Harris and other veterans.
"I think everyone's upset," Harris said. "Veterans especially."
A subsequent investigation led Governor Mike Beebe to replace the director of the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, but it was too late for the nearly 150 veterans that had to find a new place to live.
Never again, Harris and others said, organizing Arkansas Veterans Alliance. Harris says military service organizations are prohibited from participating in political activity, so helped form the alliance to make Arkansas' 250,000 veterans aren't forgotten by lawmakers in the legislature.
Right now, Harris says they've thrown their support behind Little Rock Representative John Edwards and his bill calling for the construction of a 150-bed veterans home.
"We're talking about a new, quality, decent home for our veterans," Edwards said.
Edwards is no stranger to the uniform; he's currently a colonel in the Arkansas National Guard, wears the gold star, and plans to retire after 32 years of service at the end of the year.
The rep says neighboring neighboring states are doing a far better job taking care of their veterans, some boasting half a dozen veterans home to Arkansas' one remaining home in Fayetteville. He says a new home could cost about $20 million.
Money is tight, Edwards admits, but with the federal government picking up 65 percent of the bill, he says Arkansas can find a way to pay for the rest.