I served my country with pride. I served at a time when doing so was unpopular. Vietnam was a place we were all trying to forget. The Marine Recruiter convinced me our country still needed a few good men. Before I had a chance to change my mind, I was off on a ten-year adventure.
I learned a lot during those years. I experienced a variety of challenges; visited several exotic locales; and interacted with strange cultures. The official record says I served during peacetime. Tell that to the families of friends I lost in Beirut. There were plenty of times it didn’t feel very peaceful in Central and South America either.
I recently attended the ceremony at Beardstown High School honoring the fallen heroes who attended that institution. It was a moving ceremony; well thought out and executed. The memorial is an attractive addition to that campus.
It is great to be a part of a community that genuinely desires to honor those who served. Unfortunately honor doesn’t put food on the table and the sad reality is that right here at home we have veterans of all eras who are in need. Anyone who has ever had to deal with the VA can tell horror stories of fighting through red tape that at times can make a tropical jungle look like a well manicured lawn.
A few years ago, long after leaving active duty, I was contacted by the VA notifying me that I was a part of a large group of Marines who were exposed to a long list of harmful chemicals in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, NC. Marines who were exposed to these toxins are now, years later, suffering a myriad of health problems.
The VA assured me at that time that any future health problems would be taken care of. I took them at their word. That was a mistake. When a catastrophic illness landed me in intensive care fighting for my life, the last thing I expected was to be denied payment of the hospital bill. I am now permanently disabled and owe over a quarter million dollars to the hospital.
When you are unable to work full time, and have a pack of greedy lawyers hounding you for every asset you have or hope to have, it makes for financial difficulties. The VA’s answer is to seek help from your local Veterans Assistance Commission (VAC). Cass County has no VAC.
Now it seems another well intentioned group is trying to raise money for a monument honoring all Cass County veterans. Perhaps the funds would be better used to serve the veterans of this county. We can start by calling on County Board members to appoint a VAC. It’s my understanding that any expenses incurred are reimbursed by the feds.
One of the hardest things any veteran has to do is ask for help. When we do swallow our pride and ask, it’s because we really need it. Please don’t tell us we can’t get help because we live in a county that doesn’t care enough to appoint one more commission.
By A Veteran