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Fundraising for soldier questioned

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ERIC CORNELISON
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WAXAHACHIE - The fundraiser for Army Specialist Jason Mc-Cully will continue on March 17, but has been shaded by questions from many members of the community.

The truthfulness of McCully's need for assistance as reported by numerous news outlets were being questioned by members of the community and local organizations.

Questions and discre-pencies raging from the amount of money McCully receives each month to how serious his disabilities are have caused some organizations to doubt their decision to participate in the fundraiser or even drop out of the fundraiser.

The commander at the American Legion, Henry Wayne Basden, said, 'I told her (Denise Smotek) that I could not commit to the fundraiser until we had our monthly meeting.'

Smotek, an Ellis County resident, recently he-ard of the McCul-lys and their troubles and began working non-stop to do all she could to help the family put a plan together to hold a benefit.

Joe Smith from the Knights of Columbus addressed the members of the American Legion during their monthly meeting and
their monthly meeting and the members then decided against supporting the fundraiser.

The American Legion did decide to help other members of the community and Basden said, 'Because of what Joe Smith said, we as a group of veterans decided against participating in the fundraiser, we have several other projects that we decided to support.'

According to McCully, he was wounded while serving with the 2nd Infantry in Iraq in June 2005.

McCully said, 'I was placed on convalescent leave and have to wait for my DD-214 before I can file for disability.'

McCully said during his last Electroencephalography or EEG (the measurement of the electrical activity of the brain) at the Air Force Academy, he was diagnosed with epilepsy, which is a medical disorder involving episodes of abnormal electrical discharge in the brain and characterized by periodic sudden loss or impairment of consciousness and often accompanied by convulsions.

The McCully family was allowed to come home, but it is not unusual for the military to release soldiers when they have saved leave and, in this case, convalescent leave to finish up their last days of service at home.

'We were allowed to come home because we had already checked out of housing and we wanted to get the kids started in school,' said McCully.

The American Legion was concerned people would think they do not support the soldiers serving in the military and wanted to make it clear this was not the case.

Basden said, 'It looks like we are against the veterans but we are not, we are veterans and this is definitely not the case.'

Smith referred all questions over to Larry Bartow at the Knights of Columbus.

Bartow, speaking for the Knights of Columbus, said, 'I know how things work in the military, I had to wait to get discharged before I could file for my disability.'

A person is still in the service and drawing their regular pay when they are on convalescent leave or regular leave until they officially get discharged.

'A person will not be discharged until it was determined what kind of discharge and get a release from a doctor if they are on convalescent leave,' said James Wilhoite the Ellis County veteran's service officer for Ennis, Waxahachie and Red Oak.

Wilhoite said a person in McCully's position would probably be receiving about $1,500 dollars a month.

McCully would be receiving $734 each month if he was determined to be 30 percent disabled but it was reported through several news outlets this was what he was currently receiving.

McCully said, 'When I went in for my last EEG and it was found that I had epilepsy the disability may be as much as 100 percent.'

According to Wilhoite a combat disability was different then a service related disability.

If it was determined the stressors were caused by combat, the disability pay would be different than if the stressor was determined to be from a car accident or falling off a horse but either disability would qualify someone for disability pay, Wilhoite said.

Other questions arising from the recent reports are the repossession of McCully's van and an incident where both Jason McCully and his wife Marirose had gotten DUI's in the past.

Marirose readily admitted the two had gotten past DUI's but it had nothing to do with the condition her husband was in.

As for the repossession of the family van, the President of the United States had passed a recent bill which will not allow a soldier serving in Iraq or Afghanistan to lose their house or car while they were in combat.

Wilhoite said the soldier would not be required to pay on such items until they returned.

Tom Hoffman from the Patriot Guard Riders, one of the organizations supporting the fundraiser for the family said, 'Some things have been reported in the papers that are not accurate but Jason has corrected those reports.'

'Before we took on Jason we made an attempt to verify as much as possible even going as far as to speaking with his commanding officer who verified he was getting a medical discharge.'

Hoffman said the repossession of the family's van was done when McCully was in Colorado and not when he was in combat.

The fundraiser was still scheduled for March 17 at the Knights of Columbus beginning at 6:30 p.m. with the Patriot Guard Riders escorting McCully from Waxahachie through Ennis to the Knights of Columbus with one stop along the way where Waxahachie Mayor Joe Jenkins will speak.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars and other organizations reportedly participating in this benefit have not returned any telephones calls at the time of this publication.

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