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A veteran's view: Betrayal of veterans starts at the top

This is to anyone who will listen.

When I was 26 years old I attempted suicide for the second time. While I was in my local psych ward I met another Vietnam veteran who warned me not to get mixed up with the Veterans Administration like he did because he was being shipped around the country from one private ward to another. I never knew why this was happening to him, but I did not want it to happen to me, so I did not want much to do with the VA.

That didn’t change until sometime in the 2000s after I met a new friend at my brother-in-law’s house. He was a Marine photographer in Vietnam. His name was Dennis Kanke. We met for the first time on a Sunday evening. He encouraged me to get involved with the VA, so I agreed I would apply for benefits. He asked me to call him that Wednesday, and I said I would call him and let him know how the appointment went. However, I did not get an appointment with the VA service officer until that Friday so I decided I would call Kanke then.

That Wednesday night he poured gasoline on himself and lit himself up. The next night I met with his wife and children and asked them to let him go because 85 percent of his body was burned up, and it was time for him to leave this world. They agreed and let him go.

I remain concerned the powers that be in the VA are thoroughly corrupt. I am disgusted by the possibility.

I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and ischemic heart disease of the kind associated with herbicide exposure, or exposure in Vietnam to Agent Orange. I also had two children who died of the same heart disease. One of my boys, Jonah Clarke Duvall, lived less than a year, from April 5, 1979, to June 26, 1980. The other, Daniel Wilford Duvall, lived an even shorter life, from April 18, 1977, to Aug. 5, 1977. The VA will not acknowledge my boys may have died as a result of my chromosomal breakdown because I was exposed to the herbicide. My family has no history of any heart problems except for my children and me: coincidence?

The chemical companies involved in the manufacture of this lethal stuff were slapped on the hand and told they shouldn’t have made the stuff with so much dioxin in it.

Yes, I am disgusted with the way my country treated us during the Vietnam War and upon our return home. And now this further insult, learning through numerous recent news reports that the VA may have been delaying care, possibly to the point of veterans dying. If it’s true, will these so-called defenders and advocates of us veterans be charged with murder? Or will they, too, just receive slaps on their hands? I believe this betrayal runs from the top down.

What next?

Charles E. Duvall of Duluth was a specialist in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967 with the 120th Transportation Company Red Ball Express.