Tuesday, December 11, 2012
The Love Letter Campaign ~ My Dad - A Retired 30-Year Veteran Who Never Said A Word
I guess I can use this to vent; to express my true inner emotion concerning the loss of my father who died at the young age of 64 from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma Cancer w/Sepsis Bacteria. We were told it was from radiation. I thought "radiation?" What radiation. Then I remember way back when I was younger, my dad did mention that he was stationed in Tianan (sp?) Island during WWII. He then mentioned they received orders and were shipped out to Nagasaki. They remained on the ship off the coast (don't know how far off the coast) and went in two weeks after the bomb was dropped. OK--so far so good. Now we are in the 60's. My dad just made E-7 (I laughed because my dad's record shows when he was a young lad his rank went up and down sometimes). He was right at 20 years. After his promotion, he received orders for Vietnam. My mom was scared and I remember her telling him that he put in his time and he could retire. My dad responded that the military has taken care of him and his family and he couldn't just quit. (BTW-he retired after 30 years service). He first went to Cam Ron Bay (SP?) but then was shipped to a place called Phan Rang (SP?). He came back after 13 months and we were assigned back to Germany. My dad retires in 1970 and gets a job at the Mannheim PX in Mannheim, Germany. On Memorial Day 1988, I receive a frantic phone call (I'm in the Army at this point since 1972)and my mom is crying. Said my dad went for a hernia operation and was bleeding like a "stuck pig" so they could not operate. She said he was not doing so well. I must add at this point that I can't remember my father ever being sick and missing work. I immediately flew to Mannheim and noticed my dad was losing weight and not to energetic--for my father this was unheard of. He said he was OK so I flew back home. I got another call and flew back over. This time, I took him to Landstuhl, Germany where the U.S. military had a hospital with MRI equipment. My dad went in and they thought it was something to do with the liver but weren't sure. He got worse after that so we had him admitted to the military hospital in Heidelberg, Germany. They tried to tell us he had a bad liver. I didn't buy it so I had him medevac'd to Walter Reed. His groin area was swelling up like a basketball and he was losing weight quickly. Come to find out, in Germany the doctors had mis-diagnosed him but it was too late. He had Non-Hodgkins w/Sepsis Bacteria. He was gone in 10 days. We buried him at Arlington National Cemetery. I was the Chief of the United States Army Intelligence Command Army Attache Management Division at the time. One day we had a Colonel who was in-processing and I was reading his records and found out he was in VM during the same period my father was. I asked him if he ever heard of Phan Rang (SP?) and his response caused me to almost fall off my chair. "Oh Yeah" he said. We dropped Agent Orange all over that area!
weeks on end"
In the end, and after much research, my mom and I found out that not only did my dad die because of Agent Orange; but the possibility of lingering effects of the radiation from Japan might have occurred. We were told that radiation from Japan could affect a person 50 or so years afterwards. I wrote many senators and congressman about this but no one responded. The radiation did not only kill my dad; it began the slow depression and death of my mother. My mother was the most out-going woman I've ever known. After my dad passed for 24 years until her death a few months ago she became a recluse; developed dementia; never went to the hospital for check-ups; and eventually passed away from the onset of severe dementia and Stage IV Ovarian cancer. It affected me and my kids as we were all close to my dad and mom. Although I served 21 years in the military I fault them for not informing the men and families of the possibilities of exposure to radiation, chemicals, bio-materials, etc so that preventive care and monitoring could take place. The military takes care of their own up to a point as long as you don't make waves. But, after saying that (so why did I leave the sentence in this write up? Because I write as I think), I am seeing this country taking care of the soldiers and families as well as having great respect. Remember the soldier didn't create the war the politicians did. The soldier fights the wars so that the politicians can sit back and watch. I blame them as well for the loss of both my parents not just my dad. My dad never said a word about this except for the few sentences that I mentioned above and he never complained nor ever blamed anyone for his situation. When he found out he was dying, he said "I've fought enough battles and I'm ready to go." He winked at me. My mom asked me to ask my father, while he was laying in bed, where he wanted to be buried. I did not want to do this but I did. Tears were flowing down my face like a waterfall when I had to ask him. He never talked about his war battles nor, if he ever had any, his internal battles. He never said a word. I'm 60 years old now and I miss my dad and my mom big time.
Submitted By: G.M. Rominger, Sr.
This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html