Veterans Day in
America, the land
of the free, and the home of the brave.
Have you ever
noticed? They are all around you.
We have young
ones, and old ones, yellow and red ones, ones from the south, ones
from north, ones who are peace nicks and ones who still fight. We
have compassionate ones too, mothers and fathers, plus sisters and
brothers. We have wounded ones, and ones who are still intact. We
have mentally ill ones, and homeless ones too. We have generational
ones, and ones blazing a new trail.
Well it's that time in my life again, I am aware. I feel it, it's like an old wool sweater that first feels warm and inviting, but suddenly turns itchy and uncomfortable. I've been here before, but this time it is very different, because I am no longer alone. See, I started as an Agent Orange activist at the age of four or five when my parents would attend rallies in the Canton Ohio, area to bring awareness to Agent Orange issues. I would wear a skirt so all could see my prosthesis and a tee shirt that said Agent Orange Makes Me Sick.
MARCH 11, 2012,
Fourteen years and counting, fourteen years of missing,
fourteen years of living, fourteen years of remembering, and fourteen years of
forgetting. Where are you? Can you see me? If I try really hard I can see your
smile. I can hear your voice, your laugh...
What is it like there? Are you asleep? Can you reach out?
Answer me please. I call out to you at times. You are my Father, a girl needs
her Father, Damn it. “A GIRL NEEDS HER FATHER!
Stone filled Knapsack
Orange, since the day I was born.
has marred my very existence.
have carried it with me like stones in a knapsack.
kids teased me,
my Dad became ill,
my Brother felt alone,
my Mother became a widow,
added new, heavier stones to my knapsack.
been an extremely heavy burden to carry.
I have carried it.
I woke up this morning thinking of those in Vietnam again. This occurrence has been common since I have come home from my trip to Vietnam last October. This morning, it was one of the young girls I met at Tu Du hospital on my mind. When I first saw her that October afternoon, she had a smile a mile wide. Her eyes were full of light. She was missing one leg below the knee. I believe her other leg was malformed. She crossed it behind her while she walked on her knees along the hospital hallway floor.
This Memorial Day, let us remember the men and women of the military, but let us also consider the ones left behind. In particular, the widows of Vietnam Veterans, whose husbands have succumb to Agent Orange exposure.
This past week, my Uncle, a retired career, Air Force man, began receiving his additional AO benefits for his heart disease. Of course, we all celebrated. We are thrilled his new disability rating will result in benefits for my Aunt, if something happens to him. My Mother and I, happily chatted about him getting his benefits.
I was recently very fortunate. My mother, while searching for some pictures of her Brother, for his upcoming class reunion, came across a large cache of pictures of my Dad in Vietnam. You see my Father was always a camera guy. He enjoyed taking pictures and he enjoyed being in photographs. This carried through his time "in-country."
Throughout his life there are photographs of him hamming it up for the camera. One of the earliest I have, is him hanging over the family’s mailbox in Wintersville, Ohio.
Today the kids and I saw a giant crow on the side of the road as we were leaving our neighborhood. The bird wobbling back and forth, his feathers beaded with drops of spring rain, was wandering along the road looking for an afternoon snack. We bantered about how big crows are and how dark their feathers are. My oldest mentioned how loud and annoying crows can be. In a flash of gray matter, I remembered the Aesop Fable Called the Crow and the Pitcher.
The Crow and the Pitcher
I spend a lot of time looking at all sides of the Agent Orange epidemic. I not only think about the many issues surrounding Agent Orange, but I also look at the many barriers that discourage forward movement for the offspring of male Vietnam Veterans. Many of you reading this may be surprised to know that Veteran Affairs recognizes a laundry list of birth defects in the children whose mothers are Vietnam Veterans but does not recognize the same birth defects (except for spina bifida) in the children of Male Vietnam Veterans.
March 11, 2011, An Anniversary of Great Loss
In the early morning hours on March 11, 1998, I received a phone call from my younger brother, John; “Dad’s gone, he died tonight.” Numbness overwhelmed my body. He was only 50 years old.
I got the details of what happened from my Mother. Apparently, Dad had gotten up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. He had a massive heart attack he fell and hit his head on the vanity. My mother heard the noise, called 911 and rushed to his side.