Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day . . . More than Memories

When my husband came home from Viet Nam, the first thing he did on debarking the plane was to stoop down and kiss the ground. He was that grateful to be home. Yes, protestors spit on him. And when he finally made it all the way to Philadelphia and fell asleep on his mom's couch, it was not a restful sleep. His mom came to wake him up by tapping his shoulder, and he decked her. He was still in combat mode.

When I met him in 1974, I could tell he was a vet. He always knew where all the exits were, and any loud noise caused him to go on the alert. Like the time a kid threw cherry bombs under our park bench on a Fourth of July celebration.

In 2004, we spent some time in Paris and spotted a peace march passing by as we finished our lunch at McDonald's. We walked with them. As the crowds dwindled, an old woman, bent with age and wrapped in a black shawl, asked Allen if he was American. She got down on her knees and kissed his hand. "Thank you," she said. "This is to remember all the soldiers who came to save us during World War II."

Later, I worried about my community college students who had served in Afghanistan. One dropped out after receiving reports his brain had multiple small tumors. Others confided they suffered from severe headaches and sleeplessness.

Service. Honor. Sacrifice. 

So it's no surprise that last week on PBS, John Yang and Dan Sagalyn reported that soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq are now suffering from brain cancers or lung disorders caused by smoke. Once diagnosed with cancer, these vets do not have long to live. Their families are struggling to get coverage.

The surprise is these vets have to fight to get the VA to recognize their illness as service-related. According to PBS, tens of thousands of soldiers need VA approval to get medical benefits or disability payments for these burn-pit related illnesses. Families have struggled to get that crucial VA approval. What about the vets who don't have anyone to advocate for them?

ACTION NEEDED: Two Senators (Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat, and Marco Rubio, Republican) have introduced a bill dubbed 'Burn Pit Legislation' that would set new eligibility requirements for these vets with cancer or lung disease. 

I hope you read the two links provided above.

With the current divide between Democrats and Republicans, do we have any hope such a bill could pass the House and the Senate? 

Is it time to write our Congressional representatives?

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