Saturday, July 02, 2011
Road tripping with the CNN Express, part two: Texas!

This week we packed up our bags and joined the CNN Express for a road trip across south and central Texas with the Defining America crew. This is our second census road trip this year (remember our trip to North Carolina?) and I was very happy to go to Texas, which is my home state. Our first stop was Harlingen, in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley.


Harlingen sits at the intersection of important state highways coming from the bustling border towns of McAllen and Brownsville. A commercial hub itself, Harlingen is home to the region's largest airport and Harlingen High School South, from where yours truly graduated. As we rode through the streets of Harlingen, my head and pupils twitched from side to side absorbing new landmarks and wondering when the old ones ceased to be. New taco fast-food chains? Check. Old comic book store? Gone.


But one thing remains constant in Harlingen: baseball. What better place to set up the iReport cultural census booth and meet Rio Grande Valley residents than at a game between the Harlingen WhiteWings and their rivals, from about 30 miles to the west, the Edinburg Roadrunners?



At Harlingen Field I met with fellow iReporter and former Marine Rey Leal. Leal's first iReport in 2009 documented the 250-mile march from McAllen to San Antonio that he and about 100 other veterans conducted to protest the lack of a veteran's hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. Leal told me, "When we started to walk, all the local channels came to see us." After they left populated areas and continued their way up desolate roads, local news outlets lost interest and they went from news subjects to "just a bunch of crazy dudes walking on the side of the road." That's when he took action by shooting and producing his iReport, which sparked interest and was aired on HLN. It got national attention.



Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs contracted local hospitals to offer inpatient services to veterans, and this past February, a new outpatient surgery center opened in Harlingen, thereby nearly eliminating the need for veterans to travel long distances in search of health care. Leal's story is a solid reminder of the power of citizen journalism and iReport to bring attention to issues sometimes overlooked by traditional media.


In Harlingen I also visited Texas State Technical College on Wednesday morning, where I recruited a small army of iReporters. Hooray for new friends!


In our next update from the road, we'll take a look at our visit to San Antonio. In the meantime, please continue to participate in iReport's cultural census. If you haven't done so yet, you can start by filling out this survey and completing one of the following assignments:


Share a photo
Take a self-portrait. Get creative!


Read aloud
Tape yourself reading a standard passage.


Eat dinner
Show us a photo of you or your family's typical weeknight dinner.


Write this down
Scan or snap a photo of your handwriting.


Get around
Show us how you generally get around town.

July 3, 2011
Click to view jbilindad's profile

American veterans need should be met.They win many wars for the United States.They sacrificed their lives for their country.They make their country great.

  They deserve a lot, they are awesome.

July 4, 2011
Click to view DrGrnd0's profile

Actually, the entire VA system needs a good house cleaning from top to bottom. Each President promises to improve VA customer service, yet nothing ever changes! When Social Security wanted to clean up it's backlog of claims, the director hired more ALJ's. Meanwhile, the VA's backlog continues to grow. I've been fighting with the VA for over 20 years to get service connection for PTSD. My claim had been at the Board of Veteran Appeals for five years, when the rules changed. Under the new rules, all I have to show is that I served in the US Armed Forces and that I have PTSD. Under the new rules, my claim would have been approved 20 years ago! As it is, my claim is still tied up in the VA bureaucracy, and I can't get any information on its status. I have contacted my rep from the DAV, no response. I wrote directly to the Deputy Director twice, no reply. I've tried the new E-verify software, and it's not only not user friendly but the site is unsecure. The VA has already compromised my personal information once. I even emailed the President, no response. So, I contine to pay all of my medical bills out of my own pocket. I could tell you more, but in the interest of saving space, I've said enough! Just as a side note, Social Security declared me totally disabled going on five years now.

August 3, 2011
Click to view tejasDean's profile

I worked at the VA hospital in Dallas, TX for 7 months back in 2000. I worked as a Radiation Oncology Therapist ( Administrating the prescribed dose of radiation to cancer patients). The facilities and quality of care that I witnessed there were criminal. I had worked at Treatment centers all across the US, and this was by far the worst. The proud soldiers of the US should receive the very best in care, not the worst. They would have six patients cramed in a room meant for one. All they time IV alarms and nurse alarms are bleeping for someone to take notice. The equipement that we used to administer the radiation was older than I, I was 38 at the time. We have to do checks on the parameters of the machines every day before use. They were never within the precribed parameters, doing more damage than good. I could not live with myself under these deplorable conditions and quit. Yes, I complained and reported all that I witnessed, but no one seemed to care. SHAMEFUL!!

August 5, 2011

It's good to see the community take a more active role.  Veterans are getting the short end of the stick and have been for quite some time.  And Medical care is at the top of the list along with housing in many areas. Great Job well done...

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