Warner Robins man at forefront of veterans issues

wcrenshaw@macon.comJanuary 12, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- A Warner Robins man is at the forefront of fighting to preserve benefits of military members.

Rick Delaney was elected national president of the Retired Enlisted Association in September, which has almost 45,000 members. The group also goes by The Enlisted Association, because it is no longer just for retirees. Active-duty, Guard and Reserve forces with at least seven years of service are also eligible, as well as all honorably discharged veterans.

“We are trying to stop the erosion of our benefits,” said Delaney, a Vietnam veteran who served 24 years in the Air Force. “We know we are not going to get back what has been taken, but we want to slow or stop the erosion of what we worked for, what we earned.”

One of those, he said, is medical benefits. He currently has to pay part of his insurance premium, which he said isn’t what he was told when he joined the Air Force.

In November, he spoke onstage with President Barack Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. On Feb. 28, he will testify before Congress, speaking at the Joint Veterans Affairs Committee about concerns he has over potential cuts to benefits.

“If I can slow down one thing, then I have been a success,” he said.

The group has an office in Washington with legislative directors who go to the Capitol daily to lobby on behalf of veterans benefits.

Delaney has been a member of the group for 20 years, and for the past 10 years has been involved on the national level. He served the previous three years on the board of directors, chairing the legislative committee.

At the group’s annual convention held in Jacksonville, Fla., in September, he tossed his hat in the ring with one other person to run for president, and Delaney won the vote. It’s a one-year term, and he has already decided to run again at this year’s convention, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the association.

He said one major focus of his efforts is to improve the profile of the organization, which is little known to the general public.

“I had never heard of it until I had served 23 years in the Air Force,” he said.

The Senior Citizens League is an affiliate of the Retired Enlisted Association. Executive Director Shannon Benton said Delaney was a good choice to lead the association.

“He’s just a wonderful patriot and an all-around good guy,” she said.

Although he is officially a Vietnam veteran, Delaney never actually served in Vietnam but in what is referred to as the Vietnam theater. He served three tours in nearby countries, where he built bombs that were used in Vietnam.

The local chapter of the group hands out certificates of appreciation to veterans from all wars. The one for Vietnam veterans includes the words “Welcome Home.”

“You would be surprised what a piece of paper can mean to a veteran,” he said.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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