I lost a cousin this week. We were not close by any means. I only saw him maybe once or twice in the last 40 years. Before when I was much younger we ran into each other maybe once a year at family reunions and holiday parties. I doubt we would even recognize each had we passed in the street. Nevertheless, he was blood kin, and now he is gone.
His death was directly related to an all expense paid by the government vacation to Southeast Asia in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. There he came into direct contact with a wonderful substance known as Agent Orange. Said substance was used by the U.S. Military to defoliate the vast jungles and forests in Vietnam so as to expose enemy positions. It’s success as a defoliate may be debated but it was damn good at causing long term illnesses to those who came into contact with it.
The last time I remember seeing my cousin was about 15 years ago at a family reunion. He seemed ok but everyone said he was sick and getting worse. The last few years of his life were spent bedridden in a VA hospital. He was nearly blind, had a hard time eating, speaking, and could barely move. He was in quite a bit of pain from what I’ve been told and the last few months had to have been miserable for him. Not a pleasant way to go but at least his suffering is over with.
And he is not the only relative in my family who died as a result of the war. Another cousin, from the other side of the family joined up with the Marines and headed overseas. He was a huge man, well over 6′ 5″ or better and built like a heavily fortified shithouse. I remember him towering over me. One day he was in a column on patrol when the man in front of him stepped on a mine. Said mine blew backwards almost decapitating my cousin. He was given last rites on the helicopter to the hospital but somehow survived his wounds and returned home. But, the wound affected him for the rest of his life. He managed to stay fit and eventually moved to Thailand where he taught marshal arts. A few years back the wound caught up with him and he was gone.
A third cousin served over there in the Air Force. He was not hurt physically but the mental strain caused problems for him later on in life. He is doing ok now though but I suspect he still has issues.
I for one missed the unpleasantness of the 60’s and early 70’s. By the time I was eligible for the draft it was pretty well over with and I never got the call. Something I am very thankful for. I don’t have the attitude to do well in the military. I fully respect what they do and have done, but it was not a life for me.
The really sad part about Vietnam is it’s now being discovered the war could have ended in 1968. But the rat bastard Nixon sabotaged negotiations for peace in order to advance his political career. You have to wonder how many lives would have been saved had this motherfucker not screwed things up. As bad as the trumpenführer is, he is nowhere near as conniving and evil as Nixon was. And a hell of a lot dumber.
So here we are, nearly 45 years after the fact, and Vietnam is still claiming victims. I’m guessing Korea and WW 2 are doing the same but when you lose blood kin it kinda hits home a bit. My cousin and I may never have been close but we were still family and to the best of my knowledge he was a stand up guy. It’s a damn shame he had to die this way.