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One mother asks why: Mom of injured vet questions how Cape honors its wounded

By Staff | Sep 4, 2010

Dana Araujo wants her son Michael — and all injured service members returning home — to be recognized by the city in the same manner that Pfc. Corey Kent has been recognized.
Or in the very least, she hopes the city would use universal approach to honoring the returning wounded.
Dana’s son, Spc. Michael Araujo, 20, suffered serious injuries Oct. 16 of last year while on duty in Afghanistan.
His injuries resulted in his having his left leg amputated, his jaw reconstructed, tendons and ligaments in his left arm repaired, and broken vertebrae in his back corrected, among others.
When Araujo returned to Cape Coral Jan. 30 — his birthday — he was met with a reception by Hooters and the Discount Auto Parts Store on Del Prado, where his father, Tyler, works.
Dana Araujo said the support Michael received from the community since his return has been helpful and is much appreciated, but she is disappointed that the city did nothing to honor her son or others before him.
“I think it’s not fair to honor one and not the other,” she said. “And not just for Michael. There’s other people in this community who are seriously injured or are not coming home at all. It’s not fair they’re not being recognized, either.”
Spc. Michael Araujo declined comment for this story.
He told an editor he knew the risks when he enlisted, was just doing his job when he was wounded, and that he “is not a hero.”
As did his mother, he also said he has no issue with the recognition and support Kent, who lost both legs and part of his hand, also in Afghanistan, has received.
Other than the obvious connection, the Araujo and Kent families have become linked by casual acquaintance.
Tyler Araujo acted as a source of information for Kent’s family immediately following Corey’s injury.
Araujo was able to help guide Kent’s mother Tiffany, and stepfather Dan Ashby, through the earliest stages of his injuries and eventual return stateside. He told them what to expect, and what steps needed to be taken to be reunited with their son.
Dan Ashby called Tyler Araujo’s help a “godsend”.
Dana Araujo’s issue is specifically with the city and her question is simple: Why one and not all?
In separate actions, city employees collected more than $3,200 for Corey Kent and his family, and city council selected Bill Deile as council’s representative for a visit to Walter Reed where Kent is going through recovery and rehabilitation efforts.
There are also plans to name Kent’s birthday as “Pfc. Corey Kent Day.”
City officials had varied answers.
Deile said that fellow council member Chris Chulakes-Leetz “started the ball rolling” on efforts to recognize Kent.
As to why Araujo and others were not similarly honored Deile said he had no answer for Mrs. Araujo, but called the situation a “dilemma”, adding that upon reflection, he knew there could be controversy after accepting to represent council for the trip to Walter Reed.
“The problem is when you’re honoring one, you’re accused of ignoring the rest,” Deile said.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said Araujo was not recognized because he was ignored by the previous city council.
“Because I was not in office at the time of her son’s event, I cannot take responsibility for previous councils,” he said. “But I can certainly make amends for past oversights.”
He said Friday he has attempted to contact the family.
Councilmember Marty McClain said he could not provide an answer that would give comfort to the Araujo family, but added that he also feared something like this would happen.
“I wish the council would have done this more globally, instead of individually,” McClain said.
Mayor John Sullivan said something to honor Araujo was “in the works now”, though he didn’t elaborate as to what it was.
He did say the failure to recognize Araujo was not on purpose.
“I feel bad that one slipped under the radar. It certainly wasn’t intentional,” he said.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail said Dana Araujo has a right to be upset that her son has been ignored.
He said that city council likely “missed the boat” on honoring Araujo, and admitted there were “gaps in the system” to recognize returning veterans.
“It’s very tough, when you have an oversight, to politely make it right,” McGrail added.
Councilmember Pete Brandt said he hoped council could find a way to honor Araujo, and thanked veterans from the “bottom of his heart” for their service and sacrifice.
Whether the city will make an attempt to honor Araujo, or to unify the way they honor returning veterans, is unclear.
Dana Araujo emphasized Pfc. Corey Kent deserves every single honor he’s received, both from the community and the city.
But she wants the playing field when it comes to honoring veterans, and particularly Michael, to be leveled.
She said it’s her role as a mother to ask this question on behalf of her child and also on behalf of others who have come home in similar circumstances.
“I really appreciate all the support we got from the community. The issue is not funding or money. I just think all the soldiers should get the same recognition,” she said.
Council members Derrick Donnell and Erick Kuehn did not return calls seeking comment.