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Bad experience at VA prompts Prineville woman to write a letter to the President

HOLLY SCHOLZ/CENTRAL OREGONIAN
 - Prineville resident Shirley Orum shows the autographed photo and letter from President Donald Trump that she received last month after writing the President about a Veterans Affairs doctor being disrespectful to her husband.

Shirley Orum feels her husband gave his best while serving his country in the Army during World War II, and the least he should get is respect.

A recent incident with a doctor of osteopath at a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic made her so upset that she went straight to the top — writing a letter to President Donald Trump.

"I asked him to look into this situation. I feel like my husband gave 100 percent of himself during the war, and I think his government and VA should give him 100 percent back," Shirley said. "I really didn't think I'd hear back from him because there's so many important things going on."

But she did.

The Prineville resident received a letter from President Trump in mid-November, along with a signed photograph of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Walter Orum was drafted into World War II when he was 18. He spent his 19th birthday in a fox hole somewhere in Germany. He was wounded along the Belgium border, getting hit in the shoulder with shrapnel, which took a small piece out of his shoulder blade.

"He was put in a hospital there, and it was bombed — Germans bombed the hospital. He got himself out," Shirley shared. "They put him on a plane with some other wounded, and they took him to England, and he spent four months in the hospital."

Once Walter was released, he was not discharged but instead sent back near the front line to tell the replacement troops what to expect when they went in battle. He did that until he was discharged.

Walter earned a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Expert Rifleman's Badge, and Good Conduct Medal.

To this day, he still has a tingly, numb sensation in his shoulder as a result of his injury.

The couple were married June 28, 1947, more than 70 years ago. Walter worked as a supervisor for the Twentynine Palms Commissary on the U.S. Marine Corps Base in California for his career and retired from there. They moved to Prineville 22 years ago.

"He gave 100 percent of himself during those war years, and he didn't go to the VA doctors for many years," Shirley said, noting that they had private insurance. "But when the insurance premiums got so high, we couldn't afford it on retirement, then he went to the VA."

They have been really happy with the Veterans Affairs clinics most of the time, until the 92-year-old veteran visited a doctor a few months ago for a re-evaluation.

"When we went in and introduced ourselves, he said, 'Now, I don't want a long story.' That was the first thing. You just don't feel comfortable in that atmosphere," Shirley recalled of the doctor. "He started examining my husband, and my husband started to tell him how he was wounded, he said, 'I don't need to know that.'"

She said it was not a good situation.

"I felt like he was disrespectful," Shirley said. "I was really mad. That's what caused me to write the President."

Shirley, who will turn 88 next month, handwrote the letter shortly after the incident.

"The average American is this and that, well I figured we were as average as anybody, and I just wrote two or three pages — I really wrote everything," she laughed.

Although they were not really expecting a reply from President Trump, the Orums were happily surprised when they received the letter and photo from his office. Although the letter didn't specifically address the points raised by the Orums, at least they knew their concerns had been voiced and noted.

HOLLY SCHOLZ/CENTRAL OREGONIAN
 - Prineville resident Shirley Orum wrote a letter to President Donald Trump a few months ago and received a reply in mid-November. The typewritten letter, dated Nov. 1 from the White House in Washington, says, "Thank you for your kind letter and generous words of support. Working together, we will unify and strengthen our great Nation, honor our Government's sacred duty to the people, and fulfill the promise of America for all of its citizens. United, we will achieve lasting change, peace through strength, and prosperity like never before.

Melania and I are forever grateful for your support. Your encouragement, and that of millions around the world, sustains us every step of the way. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts."

The letter is signed by Donald Trump.

Shirley was pleased to receive the autographed photograph of the two leaders as well. She says she has a lot of respect for the vice president.

"He has a son in the military," she pointed out.

Although she realizes that President Trump himself may not be able to do anything about the disrespectful Veterans Affairs doctor, she hopes someone in his staff could look into it.

"At least he really heard from the average person, and that's what I meant to do," Shirley said.

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