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August 27, 2013

Tickled to be honored
Local army World War II vet on flight to DC

Mary Gargano

With the T-shirt given to the honor flight veterans draped behind her, Mary Gargano shows her Army Medical Corps picture.

“If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.” Inscription on back of the T-shirt 72 honor flight veterans wore in DC.

Mary Mattingly


On Aug. 20, 72 Tri-State World War II veterans were taken on an honor flight to Washington DC leaving from the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. Army veteran Mary Gargano of Milan was on that jet. The 88-year-old Milan woman was thrilled with the opportunity.

“If I died Tuesday night it would have been just fine!” she said afterward in her apartment at Ripley Crossing. “It was so wonderful! We were treated like kings and queens!”

Sightseeing, plus meals were provided, but moreover, it was how the public treated the 72 vets.

“I bet there were 1,000 people who came to the airports to wish us well, and some children carrying signs saying thank you. And, this was at 10:30 at night when we returned! They clapped and applauded us! I just couldn’t believe it. I wanted to thank them!”

She was also surprised when her granddaughter, Beverly Ruiz, and her family showed up at the Reagan airport to greet her. Her granddaughter lives nearby in Maryland. The veterans then took a bus ride from there to DC. Gargano didn’t feel worthy to be included. She enlisted in the army when she was 18 and became part of the army’s medical corps for one year. She helped the physicians with the injured men who returned to the states.

“I’d do the charts, whatever the doctor needed, maybe hold the soldier’s hand. I don’t feel I should be honored compared to what these men did overseas. Some had no arms or legs,” she said.

She met her husband Anthony while on base in El Paso, Texas, and they were married by a colonel because her aging father couldn’t come to give her away. The two have four children, Anthony and Pasquale Gargano, Angie Woessner and Mary Rose Lull, plus eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. Anthony, a Navy veteran, passed away eight years ago, which is when she moved to Milan. Daughter Angie lives in the area and was instrumental in helping get her mom on the honor flight. She and Mary’s nurse, Stephanie Keller, did the paperwork. Cheryl and Tom Popp helped direct and organize the honor flight, and Donna Hasselbeck served as ambassador. Gargano is appreciative of all of their work and her family’s to make the trip happen.

Each veteran had to be accompanied by a guardian, and Stephanie went with Gargano. Gargano was one of 12 wheelchairbound veterans that day, and one of just six women on the honor flight. She had hip and knee surgery, and a heart attack three years ago. But her mind is good. “From my neck up, skip the body, I could run a marathon!” Gargano joked.

She had never been to the nation’s capitol before. “I saw everything!” mentioning that they drove by the White House and Capitol. But what impressed her most was the changing of the Color Guard at Arlington. She noted how they counted their paces, flipped their guns just-so, and turned precisely, as another guard came for replacement. She also saw the Korean War and Vietnam Memorials, and liked the helmeted soldier statues placed randomly in the park. She was so amazed with the size of the Lincoln Memorial. “I wanted to sit on Lincoln’s lap!” she added. “

Gargano didn’t mind the early departure hour—she left at 4:30 am. to catch the flight and returned around midnight. She heard they were on Cincinnati television and the story was online, but joked and said, “The only’ line’ I have I hang my clothes on!”

Gargano is still on a high from the experience. “There are just no words to describe it,” she said, and proudly shows her souvenirs, which she plans to take with her when she moves next month to Batesville’s senior community, The Chateau. Angie too gushed at her mom’s experience, “It was a very special day and I’m so glad she got to experience it in her lifetime.”

The tri-state honor flight took 365 World War II and Korean War veterans in 2012, and five charter flights are planned for this year, the next one being in September. Applications are being taken for the October flight. There is no cost to veterans and World War II veterans are given priority. They have just recently started flying Korean War Veterans and the waiting list is long. The projected cost for the guardian is $440. If you know of any World War ll or Korean Veterans that would be interested in this free trip, call the hotline and leave a message, 513-277-9626 .

The flight is funded through donations, with the mission to fly as many World War ll and Korean Veterans to see their memorials in Washington DC as possible. For information or how to donate go to the website at www.honorflighttristate.org or call 513-277-9626.

EMS squads inform council of money woes

Keith Sieverding, president of Rescue 69 with squad chief Charley Cozart, and Scott Corbin, Sunman Rescue 20, attended the council meeting before the budget review.

Mary Mattingly


Members from the four rescue squads in Ripley County approached county council Monday during their regular meeting to inform them of their financial crisis. Each squad is operating in the red, with a total loss at $240,000.

Commissioner Rob Reiners suggested the squads let council know of their financial situation before the 2014 budget is set. The council spent last week in budget review for 2014.

Keith Sieverding, president of Rescue 69, said each squad is different, but all are operating at a loss. For example, Rescue 69 has no money accrued for equipment, and they are having trouble paying monthly operating bills. They are $51,000 in the red.

A presentation in July with squad representatives, hospital, paramedics, fire department staffs, and some county leaders was held by EMS groups, outlining the issue, and presenting nine options. Several, but not all, of the council members attended the meeting. The next step was to create a task force with members of the squads, hospital, etc. Sieverding said invitations have been sent and the first meeting date is Wednesday, Aug. 28.

Council member Ed Armbrecht asked about the time frame for a solution, and Sieverding replied he figured it would be a three to five month discussion. He also said it would be “fraught with emotion. It’s going to be difficult to try and keep the patient first” and operate effectively and efficiently.

So far, they have a commissioner representative, and representatives from the fire chief association, the four squads, and the hospital on the committee and would like a few representatives from council as well.
Sieverding reiterated their concern of cost per run, the number of runs without payment collection, and looming Medicare issues. “Down the road with Medicare pressure, and your guess is as good as mine, but I think a lot of private pay will go to the Medicare level. Sixty percent of our medical runs are Medicare, and that amounts to anywhere from $30 to $100 a run, which is hard to operate with.”

Scott Corbin, chief of Rescue 20 in Sunman, got down to specific numbers. He noted they have not received a funding increase from the county since 2002, and are working with $17,850 annually from the county. He said they actually give the county back more in revenue than they receive from the contract. “With the rate of inflation at 3 percent, and that’s conservative, I’d be asking for a 33 percent increase, which is a $6,000 to $7,000 increase. Plus I’d ask to remove the paramedic fee from the contract.”

Paul Hildebrand, board president of Milan Rescue 30, said he didn’t expect council to come up with $240,000. “ We have to provide a level of care, but every squad in the county is broke. We had $400,000 in the bank four years ago, and currently have $170,000. So $230,000 disappeared in four years,” he said.
One reason, he and others cited, is they are no longer volunteer-based. He said they are paying $255,000 in wages, up from $60,000 four years ago. “We would like to make it feasible and provide the best service we can, and not break anyone’s bank. Ours is all but broke,” he said.

Questions from council

Council members had a few questions for the rescue squad leaders. DeeDee Kaiser asked if they can use money from the riverboats. Yes, Sieverding replied, but it’s usually in the form of small grants for equipment, not to be used for operational funds. Brenda Wetzler asked if the 33 percent Borgman mentioned is the request from each squad. Hildebrand replied that would be “wonderful” and make a difference, “especially if we do away with the medic charges. That’s the killer…We’re getting $27,000 for our service and sending back $55,000 to the county. I’m paying double what I’m receiving.” However, the 33 percent would probably not cover the costs, he added.

Kaiser asked if it was necessary to have a medic on each run. Hildebrand replied it’s not their call but that dispatch indicates ambulance or medic need. Medical direction or protocol comes from the hospital, the EMS leaders said. The medic on scene then determines if he rides with the ambulance or not. About 45 percent of the runs in the county the medic rides in, the EMS leaders said.

Other figures noted were the loss in collections. Over 15 percent of the private pay runs are not collected. It was reported from the July meeting that the four squads made 3,052 responses, and of those 69 percent were billable. But the revenue received was actually, on average, an $80 loss. Private insurance makes up 16 percent of the runs; Medicaid is 7 percent and Medicare, 39 percent of runs.

County attorney John Ertel asked about dispatch, fuel costs and EMT level of training, and if it would be better financially to have medics at each station. Sieverding said they are looking at the personnel costs, and considering if it would be feasible to have a medic for each squad. One option is to share response duty during low volume hours. However, Kaiser noted it would take much longer to get to the patient.

The EMS meeting will be held at the Batesville firehouse at 7 p.m, but it will change locations regularly. Kaiser and Mark Horstman both said they would attend that meeting, representing the council.


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