I got the call the other day that we lost another Vietnam Vet to Agent Orange. Fortunately (I guess), Dan was Brownwater Navy on the rivers and the estuaries leading down into the South China Sea. He was given Nehmer Class status without any grief from the outset for his prostate cancer. If the cancer had stopped there, he’d be alive and I wouldn’t be writing this. But it didn’t, he’s passed and I am writing this. The good news is that we got his R1 in what some would call record time for VA.
I’d like to thank the Coach over there in Fort Harrison, Montana, Jean Ketchel, for everything she did to make this possible. If we had this level of excellence at all VAROs, we’d be in mighty high cotton. I won’t say all she did but it’s enough for Sainthood in my VA book. I deal with some downright ornery folks at the VA. Which always makes me ask them to look me in the eye and recite their little mantra ICARE- Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence.
Dan told me those boats would do 50 flat out and more if the engines were perfectly in sync. Imagine doing that on nine foot swells a mile out going up the coast to the DMZ. His back took a real pounding and crumped by 1994. Then the PTSD in 96 and the prostate in 2017. When the bone cancer spread to the lower extremities, that was all she wrote. VA pretty much insisted he’d be needing to cut them off before they’d call it “loss of use”. Well, shoot. I figured that going in. It’s the same dog and pony show every time requiring a Veterans Law Judge to say it. No self-respecting DRO wants that on his or her resume. R1 is $7,585.10 a month and in VAland, that ain’t chump change. They feel you are stealing it from them personally. Well, everyone but Jean.
I find it relatively impossible to believe that the VA et al insist there are 850,000 true, RVN, “red clay between our toes” Vietnam Veterans when I have personally buried three in the last ten years. Dan will make #4. I don’t know about the rest of you but either I’m incredibly unlucky to know a lot of relatives and friends who attended the SEA Olympic Games or my odds of randomly running into dying Vietnam Vets are incredibly inexplicable.
Imagine this. Cupcake has a website for her real estate business here in Washington-Priority One Realty. She’s good at it and has a mess of agents. Dan and his wife came to her to do some house buying and someone mentioned Veterans. Well, that was before I was accredited. When we next heard from them, they were thinking of moving back here from Montana to be close to the kids on account of his cancer. He didn’t make it back.
We invited them over here to our hacienda for a Travel Board hearing before a Veterans Law Judge (VLJ) because they don’t do Travel Boards in Fort Harrison. Silly, huh? What? no good golf courses? French-themed restaurants? Bummer. The VLJ granted in 8 days which speaks volumes for how to read the regulations.
Nevertheless, the number of true Vietnam Veterans is static, kids. It’s been stuck at 850 K for about 12 years. By rights, it should be down to about to 800- 810,000 unless all those 55-year-old VFW bar warriors are counted in. What the hey. Let’s add in the Blue Water guys who never actually touched land and really replenish that number. How about we include all the Thailand/Laos Vets and a greater number from Korea, Anderson Island and Okinawa who actually did wear Eau d’ Orange? Shoo doggies. If we threw in all them folks, why, we’d never get a wall built down south. So I guess that answers that question, gentlemen.
Dan is representative of a dying breed literally. All of us in the fabled Nehmer class are. We have the worst luck with all manner of cancers, and organs that just go kaplooey for no reason. I’m a classic example. Stage 3 kidneys and already berthing stones. Stage 4 liver- albeit compensated both medically and financially, intestines that one day just collapsed (Crohn’s) when I was 45. The list goes on and on. I hold up my hands every morning waiting for the pill roll.
Dan told me of getting hit by 7.62 shrapnel during a firefight up the Perfume River one night. His skipper pulled it out the next morning with a pair of needle nose pliers. Then they returned to Da Nang for a resupply. No surgery. No sick call. No Purple Heart. All in a day’s work.
Rest in Peace, Dan. I’ve got your six. I’ll be filing the DIC as soon as I get the death certificate from your wife. No charge. This one’s on me.