On Nov. 18, America should celebrate a true American hero by the name of U.S. Rep. Leo Joseph Ryan Jr. President Reagan signed a bill posthumously awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to congressman Ryan as the only member of Congress killed in the line of duty.

Ryan, a California Democrat, was chairman of a congressional subcommittee responsible for the well-being of U.S. citizens living in foreign countries.

Ryan became concerned when he heard from constituents about citizens possibly being held against their will in the Peoples Temple commune in Jonestown, Guyana.

This commune was led by the infamous religious cult leader Jim Jones. Despite the Carter administration’s attempts to stop him, Ryan led an entourage of reporters and concerned family members to Guyana to investigate. There, Ryan was murdered on Nov. 18, 1978, by members of the cult as he tried to rescue people who wanted to leave with him.

Ryan’s sacrifice came to mind as I read about how members of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee ignored numerous reports from the federal inspector general concerning problems in the Veterans Affairs health care system. It appears that numerous veterans may have died waiting for health care as a result of these problems.

Congressman Ryan flew to South America to investigate unconfirmed reports of wrongdoing concerning American citizens. It is so sad to know that members of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee received reports of the mistreatment of our veterans from official government sources but could not be bothered to travel to VA hospitals to thoroughly investigate such reports.

Ted Sirois

Saco