PAT DANIELS 04.17.10

Pat Daniels, former president of VVW Chapter 154 warns against too much use of ‘I, me Mine’ in  write up of his efforts with the Veteran’s Support Center in Roseville.

“It’s a group effort,” he insists.  “Our center is run by volunteers—we don’t receive a nickel from the State or the federal government.  I’m just one of the vets who share their time with the truly deserving.”

A tree of a man, whose nickname ‘Too Tall’ needs no explanation, he’s keenly aware that he’s begun to show the effects of his time in the military, now forty years gone by.  The onset of diabetes, arthritis, various virulent strains of cancer, are common among the men and women who served in Vietnam.

“It’s really hit home recently,” he says.  “Only a couple of years ago I was playing softball three, four nights a week.  No more, now I move like an old man…”
He adds ominously: “Vietnam vets over sixty years old are the exception, not the rule.”

At fifty-eight, Daniels is feeling the residual effects of Agent Orange exposure, a calamity of the war that affects nearly every Vietnam War veteran.  “Even the peripheral troops, the clerks and the food service folks, were exposed,” Daniels points out.  “Our mission here at the Support Center is to make sure that they know exactly what benefits they’re entitled to—benefits they earned.”

He relates one particularly emotional story of a vet whose service-related cancer had progressed so far by the time he approached the support center that he passed away before the claim came through.  Says Pat, “The VA doesn’t advertise.  He died without knowing that his wife would be taken care of…”

Among the services that Support Center provides is a food bank, though which they feed Macomb County’s veterans, no matter what war they served in.  “Nothing sadder to me that to see a World War II veteran, who served his country with pride and distinction, reduced to deciding whether to eat or pick up that prescription…”

“Fortunately,” Daniels nods, “We’ve taken many of these men and women under our wing, showed them that Washinton will, in fact, pay for those prescriptions.

Again, the food bank is kept replentished through private donations only, and receives no governmental assistance.  “That’s because if we accepted federal money, they’d tell us who we could feed, when we could feed them, and make us fill out endless paperwork to do so.  This way, we’re all about getting down to business.”

“It’s what I’ve always maintained, even before I joined the service,” says Daniels, who grew up in a working class East Detroit neighborhood.  “The only thing we owe vets?  Only one thing: everything.  I see Vietnam war veterans every day who are old before their time, every one of them.  The only ones who haven’t suffered an early onset of sicknesses associated with the elderly are the ones we didn’t bring back, the ones whose names are up on The Wall.  Them?  They’ll remain young forever…”



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