The Forty & Eight  Charitable Veterans Since 1920

501(c)(19) non profit, tax exempt

40&8 National Headquarters; 777 N. Meridian Street; Indianapolis, IN 46204-1170

317 634-1804 ~ ~


Contact: M. Anich, 402 884-2428;

40&8 Veterans Recognize Leader in Battle Against Leprosy Stigma

INDIANAPOLIS  August 6, 2008     The national headquarters of the FORTY & EIGHT military veterans honor society is pleased to announce that Mr. José Ramirez, Jr., of Houston, Texas, will receive the organization’s prestigious “Americanism Award” for 2008, during the group’s 89th national convention, in Orlando, Florida, September 3 - 6, 2008.

The award recognizes individuals who make an outstanding contribution to the community and to that which Americans hold dear. 

Mr. Ramirez’s contribution centers on his advocacy for those stricken with Hansen’s disease (HD), more commonly known as leprosy, plus his leadership in the fight against the bias and ignorance of Americans who unwittingly stigmatize persons affected by HD by the hate-word or all hate-words… "leper".

Jose Ramirez, Jr. hates that word.  And he ought to know. 

As an average American boy growing up in Laredo, Texas, José Ramirez was a typical teenager; a high school athlete with the usual bustle of activities.  The last thing on his mind was illness.  He did not then, nor does anyone yet today, know how or why he contracted the difficult-to-contract Hansen’s disease.  But he did.  And that diagnosis fell upon him like a death sentence.  

Ramirez was taken from his hospital bed on a gurney, with his parents looking on, and was placed in the back of a hearse to be driven the 750 of miles to Carville, Louisiana, at that time the United States National Leprosarium, where Ramirez would not be discharged until 3,476 days later.

“The thing about Jose Ramirez is his energy, his winning smile, his outgoing nature” says Forty & Eight’s national commander Bernie Sampson.

“Americans fight all sorts of wars”, said Sampson. “In the war against Hansen’s disease and against the stigma of its widespread misunderstanding, Mr. Ramirez is unequalled in his national and international leadership.”

Ramirez is a noted author and lecturer on Hansen’s disease and social stigma issues.  He has traveled extensively in the United States and abroad as the USA representative to the International Association for Integration Dignity and Economic Advancement (IDEA), in promoting Hansen’s disease education. 

Mr. Ramirez is also the Managing Editor of the “The Star” magazine, the world’s foremost publication on Hansen’s disease.  Back issues of The Star may be accessed at

Ramirez’s life has been a journey from horror to triumph. 

In 1968, when the 19 year old Ramirez arrived at Carville, Louisiana, he had entered a U. S. federal institution that until only a few years before had denied its American patients the right to vote.  If not entirely medieval, the U. S. Hanson’s disease Center at Carville was surely as far from liberty and freedom as an honest citizen can get in these United States.

He contemplated suicide.  His girlfriend, later his wife, talked him out of it.  He survived, endured.  Over the years, medical researchers developed improved treatments and therapies.  The disease became controllable, in effect curable; certainly not a health hazard to the general population of the United States.  In time, Ramirez would find he could marry and have children and not transmit the disease.  After nine and a half years, Ramirez was discharged from Carville.  He celebrates each anniversary of that day as his own personal “Independence Day”.

Ramirez has a Bachelors degree and a Master’s of Social Work from Louisiana State University.  He has been a college instructor, counselor, clinician, special projects coordinator, and administrator.  His professional specialties encompass serving persons with mental and cognitive disabilities, aging, hospice, and Hansen’s disease.   Ramirez currently is Department Director for the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County, Texas; where he lives with his wife, Magdalena.  Their have two children, José Roberto (J.R.) and Erika. 

The Forty & Eight’s charitable involvement with Carville and Hansen’s disease began in 1931 and was formalized into the Forty & Eight “Carville Star Program” in 1944.  Carville patient and founding editor of “The Star” magazine, Mr. Stanley Stein, said of the Forty & Eight, “It was their adventure in humanity… there is no way that we can ever thank the 40 & 8 for all they have done.”  The Forty & Eight provided the modern equipment needed to produce a professional publication and today continues to fund related Carville initiatives. 

In 1944, the Forty & Eight took over the Carville Star program from The American Legion and has exclusively maintained it to this day, making the "Carville Program" the second oldest program in the eighty nine year long history of the Forty & Eight.

According to the U. S. Government’s National Hansen's Disease Program, although feared by many, “Hansen's disease is not highly transmissible, is very treatable, and with early diagnosis and treatment, is not disabling.”

There are approximately 6,500 cases of Hansen’s disease in the United States today, of which about 3,300 require active medical management.  Ninety five percent of the human population is not susceptible to infection by the bacteria that causes Hansen's disease.  Treatment with standard antibiotic drugs is very effective.  Persons affected by the illness become noninfectious after taking only a few doses of medication and none need be isolated from family and friends.

At the invitation of the United Nations' Ambassador to Leprosy, Mr. Ramirez made the primary presentation at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, England, on January 28, 2008, in conjunction with the launch of the Global Appeal to End Discrimination and Stigma.  Additionally, in March of 2008, Ramirez spoke at a World Health Organization meeting in Cairo, Egypt, from the perspective of a person affected by Hansen’s disease, on the dehumanizing and stigmatizing impact of this misunderstood disease.

Mr. Ramirez has been featured in articles and news programs nationally and internationally, including Newsweek, CBS’ “Public Eye”, various international CNN stations, Al Jazzera, and Vatican City Radio. 

Mr. Ramirez appeared in the PBS documentary, “Triumph at Carville”, that premiered on March 28, 2008.

Mr. Ramirez can be contacted at

For questions regarding the Forty & Eight national convention at the Rosen Plaza Hotel, Orlando, Florida, on September 3 - 6, 2008, please contact D. R. Richards at (954) 439-4093 or


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