For those who have been to war
For those who have been to war
by Tim Connelly14 Oct 2013
Army Of The Dead
are becoming museum pieces.
They had been known
to hoist a few down
at the VFW Post.
But now it has been 45 years since
the vets were
wild young fellows.
when you're getting old.
Old soldiers don’t fade away.
They just die.
Ken died at the age of 66. People die every day from wounds received in Vietnam: a casualty of war, 37 years later. He plugged away living on borrowed time.
Wounds and exposure to Agent Orange caught up with him. He knew the time had come. Nobody will ever convince the family he wasn’t a casualty of war. It’s all there in his medical records. He gave his life the day he was wounded, and his soul was taken 37 years later.
Phil spent the last few years of his life alone inside his one-bedroom apartment. Television kept him company. His wife’s
remains sat in a urn atop the refrigerator. Diabetes had ravaged the 66-year-old Vietnam veteran's feet. He suffered from PTSD. A funeral home donated the casket in which he was buried, the urn containing his wife's ashes buried inside the casket with him.
Alan died age 59 from alcohol and smoking. He battled emphysema and was on oxygen tanks for up to 16 hours a day towards the end of his life. He was a very heavy smoker and liked the brown fluid. It took its toll on him. As with a lot of Vietnam veterans, he picked up these habits in the military
and brought them back home.
Ted tried to numb his pain with a bottle, found it led nowhere. He cannot change the past or erase his identity. He has seen war but has found peace in his art. It keeps him sober. He struggles with PTSD and probably will for the rest of his life. He had given up art because of alcoholism. He began painting again,
this year, and has been at it every day since. For a while, he didn't even know
what was real. His mind had to clear. He had to find a way to help himself.
Max wishes he were younger so he could fight in the war. A Vietnam veteran, he's pushing 60 but looks 70. They call him Mad Dog. He swears he has stopped drinking, but he's still drinking. The results of a chest X-ray: suspicious lesion, probable lung cancer. He decides it's just a shadow. Someday he will get a biopsy. The truth will surface soon enough. His mother, father, brother, and oldest sister died of lung cancer. The odds are not in his favor. He walks stiffly out of the office, Mad Dog out to do battle - a battle he will lose.
Bob could barely afford food with the Veteran's benefits he received. He had no other income. A diabetic with high blood pressure, he could not work. But...the 61 year old Vietnam veteran was living a happy life. Until...The VA cut off his benefits. It was the last straw. A note was found next to his body.
"(Expletive) you, you can't get money from a dead man."
He took a .22 caliber handgun, put it to his forehead and fired. He hardly had enough money to put food on the table, and they cut off his benefits.
Tom is 63 years old. The skinny Vietnam vet displays an Army tattoo on his right forearm. Once a tough guy, he was 17 when he joined the service. He saw things done no boy his age should ever see. He was never right after he got back from Vietnam. Wal-Mart let him go. He burned through his unemployment and all of his savings. Cancer ate that up. He's broke. He applied for help from the VA. It never got processed. It was lost. Nobody ever told him how to get help. When he got out of the VA hospital they didn't say anything. All they did was call him a cab. The only benefit they promised him was his burial benefit -- a whole $300.
Rich has dreams. Dreams of recovery. He sits up in a cot at the medical center. Every few minutes, his face wrinkles and he begins to cry. The chaplain says,
"Think positive!" The 63 year-old Vietnam vet has cancer. He admits that he neglected his health for years, his eyes welling up with tears. He could no longer speak. He shied away from psychiatric treatment for fear of being labeled "crazy". He lapsed from his faith years ago. He’s found faith again. He’s a Catholic. "There has to be something higher than where we are. I have to believe that." He struggles with thoughts of death. "If God wants me to die, that's okay."
On his death certificate, his doctor attributed the 65-year-old’s death to Agent Orange, among other causes. For decades John and his family had been fighting the Agent Orange battle.
So many guys passed away. Of late, a lot of the guys have been getting sick. He gave instructions to his wife not to pin on his medals when he was placed in his casket. Others noticed it too.
He didn’t want his medals on because he would not have been in this state if it had not been for Vietnam. In the back of their minds comrades also know many of them will not reach old age. His passing is a reminder to them all. They did not mind going to war and dying in the hands of the enemy but to slowly die from a silent killer has had a devastating impact
on their lives.
The Army that didn’t fade away, it just died.