Today we all need to think about this holiday...this Memorial Day...
and why we "celebrate" it.
For all time, there has been war...have you ever asked, "Why?"
For all time, we have let our leaders send our young men to die...have you ever asked, "Why?"
For all time, we have watched brave men & boys fight and die for us and others...have you ever asked, "Why?"
For all time, we have let our Government treat our Vets like second class citizens...
have you ever asked...
|WAR LONG, OVER, BUT NIGHTMARE HAUNTS FAIRBORN FAMILY
Last Memorial Day, after a somber and moving ceremony in which the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park was dedicated in Dayton, Donald Ray Givens went home to Fairborn, with taps and a 21-gun salute still ringing in his ear. He walked along into the backyard of his home and started thinking about a lot of things
He remembered the circle of markers in the park, where his fallen comrades were being honored and he began to think of his days and nights, back in 1967 and 1968 when he spent 12 months and 4 days with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam, 50 miles north of Saigon with the combat engineers.
For Givens, who is 37, the thoughts even turned to Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant he came into contact with in Southeast Asia. The same chemical that in ongoing years has been blamed for everything from cancer to birth defects, insomnia, skin disorders and headaches among veterans. Thoughts also turned to his son Donald "Donnie" Eugene who is 17 and His daughter Diana Lynn, who is 16, his wife Loretta age 36 and how the Vietnam War and in his opinion Agent Orange changed their lives into "A Modern day Hell".
He is not a man of words, he said, or poetry. He said he is not good at spelling and punctuation, but that night in May, he sat down and wrote a poem putting his heart and soul on paper. He sent it to me.
The poem was on my desk these many weeks. Monday a special movie called Unnatural Causes about Agent Orange and a lawsuit on behalf of its victims is scheduled to be shown at 9 p.m. on WKEF, Channel 22, NBC-TV. Tuesday, Veterans Day, Givens and his family will once again be on hand at 11 a.m. at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park with many others to remember the supreme sacrifices. When I was dealing with that stuff in Vietnam, there was no warning, no hint that it would spend a lifetime haunting me, Givens said.
We were not asked to wear gas masks or protection. I am sure they did not know what we were dealing with at the time. He said he came home from the war and was married to Loretta in September of 1968, not fearing any eventual medical problems. Donnie was born and then Diana, he said both of the kids, both of them have become victims of Agent Orange.
According to Givens, both of the kids have always had a learning problem and a behavioral problem. Donnie is super active and was born with a blood clot on the brain. He also has bone problems and problems with his eyes and on top of everything else has like a jungle rot on his feet, just as I have always had since I returned from Vietnam. Mrs. Givens said, "To give you and example of what we have had to face, one night just out of the blue, Donnie had a seizure.
He went all to pieces in the middle of the night, and tore up his room. After we got to him, and he settled down somewhat, he had no idea of what had happened. It was frightening." Mrs. Givens said that her daughter also has a learning problem, a kidney illness, and a nervous condition that she blames on Agent Orange.
"My husband came home a victim of that stuff", she said. "He has nightmares. He is depressed over 90 percent of the time. At first he drank a lot, and then got over that. But he still is so nervous. He always must be on the move." Mrs. Givens, said she too, has been caught up in the problems and has become a victim of Agent Orange. I am sure it was in Donald's bloodstream, the chemicals the poisons. I am sure it was passed on to me and now it is claiming all of us, our whole family and no one will believe us. Tears formed in her eyes as she continued talking. "It is awful, It is like this. My husband can sit and tell you about Vietnam and the bullets and the nightmares and the chemicals. But, I can sit here and tell you what life is really like after that war, because I am still living in a world of Vietnam." She paused, pushed her long brown hair back and continued, "I am only 36 years old, but I am as gray as my dear mother who is almost 60. I have a lot of love and understanding. That has helped me deal with a family who needs so much attention and so much care. You have to overlook so much, because you just don't know what is causing this. You know we are still fighting this war, in our family, all these years later. Won't it ever go away?"
Givens said he has been unemployed for the past five years because of back problems and other problems he feels were triggered by exposure to Agent Orange. He gets workers compensation and his son gets Social Security disability payments. "We don't have much coming in, in the way of money, but I am a good manager and a good provider," said Mrs. Givens. "I make do with what I have. My kids and my husband eat well, I take care of them the best I can."
Written by Dale Huffman of the Dayton Daily News Paper
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