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Inspiring Vietnam veteran and COS activist: Self-sufficiency is a choice

Published in Blog on May 22, 2023 by Van Walter

Thanks to my parents, I was taught to be independent throughout my lifetime. From where did this independent spirit come?

My parents and their parents lived through the Great Depression. When it came to food and clothes, little of those commodities were wasted. Their parents were born in the late 1800s. This era was before the automobile. It was the time before electricity was available in all homes and businesses. People toiled very hard in the fields or industrial plants. They did not have the excess and disposable income like we have today.

My parents never graduated high school, yet they schooled themselves and learned how to survive. Hard work! The belief I could succeed and arrive at self-sufficiency was my choice. I remembered those ideals from my parents and grandparents about living a successful life.

All my life, I worked hard to be the best. The U.S. Army taught me a lifetime skill. Electronics led me to successful employment and the ability to maintain a high level of competence. Work ethic was another thing I learned from my parents. My father told me to work for my employer 100% every day. He taught me to give it all when working.

A Vietnam veteran told me I should apply for VA benefits due to Agent Orange. The idea was foreign to me. I paid my taxes and avoided the government like the plague. The veteran said the government caused all his health issues. You served in Vietnam during the peak years of spraying, you deserve the disability and compensation, he said. I had gone through my life working hard and never taking anything that I had not earned. There was a psychological war going on in my brain.

All my life, I learned to be independent and never accepted help from anyone, not even the government. It was a mental dilemma. I felt that I was going against my principles. These principles are so ingrained in my upbringing. I finally decided to go to the VA. They found my medical condition fit the profile for exposure to Agent Orange. After being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I was given a rating of 100% lifetime disability.

The compensation allows me to be generous and give to those in need. I volunteer with the Convention of States in Louisiana. They are the best group of patriots I have ever known. I will do anything for them. I initially volunteered to be a State Content Writer, then a Veterans Coalition team member, a State Information Analyst, and currently the Louisiana Webpage developer.

In the end, guess what? I give my team 100% of my time and expertise. Some things never change. Thank you, Mom, Dad, grandparents, and all my ancestors who arrived at the Jamestown Colony (1610) and those on the Mayflower (1620). My ethics were not only learned but passed down through past generations. It is part of my DNA.


This article was submitted by Van W. Walter, Vietnam Veteran 173rd Airborne Brigade (SEP) Bien Hoa, RVN May 1966 - 1967

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