Wounded soldier applauds pay boost

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Army Sgt. Michael McElhiney, awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart after losing part of an arm in Afghanistan, was to see President Bush address the nation Tuesday as a White House guest.

The Kansas City, Mo., native hoped Bush would encourage Americans to keep supporting U.S. troops fighting the war on terrorism. McElhiney was among members of the 5th Special Forces Group injured Dec. 5 in a mistaken U.S. bombing that also killed three Green Berets.

McElhiney, 30, graduated from Kansas City's Hickman Mills High School. His parents, William and Tamara McElhiney, live in the Kansas City suburb of Liberty, Mo.

He was one of three Fort Campbell soldiers invited to attend Bush's address. All three were hurt last month when a 2,000-pound U.S. bomb missed its target, instead landing 100 yards from the team's position north of Kandahar.

Battling terrorism was to be a major theme of Bush's speech. Leading up to the State of the Union, the commander in chief had already proposed adding nearly $50 billion to the Pentagon budget, the largest increase in military spending in 20 years.

Fewer dollars for military programs and operations has meant substandard housing at military bases, McElhiney said. "It's sad to say, I've been on military installations where you'll drive through certain areas and it's worse than the projects," he said.

McElhiney met Tuesday morning with lawmakers including Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., an Appropriations Committee member who helps dole out defense dollars.

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