The heart of a warrior, the soul of a saint.

September 18, 2016
Jim Bond

Jim Bond

#ShakenNotStirred.

Shaken, Not Stirred. A blog by Jim Bond.

Sponsored by Pro-Master Carpet Cleaning, 231-757-9061, promastercarpetcleaning.com.

 

He died August 20, just four weeks ago. He was killed by the United States government and the corporations it defends; Monsanto, Dow, and seven other chemical companies.

We met over a half century ago. We weren’t friends then because we weren’t in the same barracks together at Peacock Military Academy in Texas. Our daily exchanges were mostly limited to him saluting me because I was an officer and he, as an underclassman, was not.

I recognized him then as a kind and gentle soul. As I’ve learned in the past few years, on Facebook, he still was. He was devoted to his wife and his family. He was devoted to his country. He was an honorable man.

He fought in Vietnam. I didn’t. While I was vocally supporting him and his comrades in arms and the cause for which they fought, I was doing so in the comfort of an air-conditioned apartment on a student deferment. I slept in clean sheets. He slept in swamps, infested with insects and God only knows what.

My shiny car bore a bumper sticker ‘America, love it or leave it’. If he was lucky enough to ride in a car, it was a military Jeep, sans bumper stickers.

When my student deferment was changed to a medical deferment due to a temporary lung ailment, he was inhaling a poison with every breath. A poison manufactured in the America he was fighting for, and promoted by the United States government he was dedicated to.

Over 58,000 never returned from the hell-hole he endured. Thousands of others committed (and still are committing) suicide. Those who returned were greeted not with cheers, but jeers. He was spat upon. Many of the returning soldiers withheld from their spouses and children, the horrors they endured; horrors that their forbear warriors never had to face.

So he, and others like him, sublimated. They married, had children, and taught them the mantra of ‘Duty. Honor. Country’. Every day he breathed that philosophy, from slowly deteriorating lungs, the Agent Orange our country gave them during those years taking their toll. Day by day, year by year, it slowly invaded, setting the stage for the attack. An attack my friend fought and lost.

Meanwhile, the government which poisoned him, still stalls and points fingers of responsibility to others. What ‘Duty. Honor. Country.’ meant to him, is continuously disregarded by the same government which poisoned him.

Would he do it again? Knowing him as I did, through Facebook and phone conversations I intentionally kept short because they exhausted him,I believe he would.

And that’s why I respect him. I love him. But more importantly,I now salute him.

It was called ‘Operation Ranch Hand’. Wow, sounds like Rodgers and Hammerstein, doesn’t it? Eliciting images of cowpokes sitting on a fence, chewing on blades of grass, boot-heels lodged in a homemade fence.  Curly McLain, Laurey Williams, Will Parker, and Ado Annie.

I doubt our troops were singing the lyrics to ‘Oh, What a beautiful Morning’ while being sprayed with 20 million gallons of dioxin during the 1960s and early 1970s. More likely, had they known, our troops would be vocalizing another song from that same musical, ‘It’s A Scandal! It’s A Outrage!’   

Of course, we didn’t know it all at the time, but subsequently we have learned of the horrors of Agent Orange: tumors, birth defects, rashes, psychological symptoms and cancer. My friend had multiple cancers.

Author Ivey DeJesus has written on the topic. Almost 3 million American servicemen were exposed to Agent Orange. Another author, Vietnam veteran Mel Wallace has written that roughly two-thirds of Vietnam veterans are dead. Citing The average life expectancy for a Vietnam Veteran is 65”, he goes on to say that “390 Vietnam vets die a day…”

Another Vietnam veteran, Terry Singer, has joined the ranks of thousands, ”If not tens of thousands, [of Vietnam] veterans across the country…who have been diagnosed with a disease, who are not aware that they might be eligible for disability benefits”. He continues, “The VA puts veterans through an exhaustive undertaking to process claims and secure benefits”.

The fealty of those in Congress and the bureaucracy who deny government and corporate responsibility is staggering. From their inflated salaries, they should spend a few dollars to fly to Texas; talk to my friend’s widow, Carol. Spend some time with his daughters Sarah Jane and Samantha. Express your concern to my friend’s granddaughters. Better yet, go to the Dallas–Fort Worth National Cemetery where my friend received full military honors at his burial. Talk to his headstone. Tell him you’re sorry, on behalf of the Federal government, for killing him.

Then, do something. Something for those who are still being robbed of a portion of their lives. Do something for the American women and men whose lives will be cut short because of ‘burn pits’ in the Middle East right now. Do something for the families of those who suffered from experimentation conducted by the USA in Vietnam, Korea, World War II and even further back, which will be discussed in next week’s blog.

We are an exceptional nation. But we have some shameful history, as well.

 

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