I saw Dan on Friday. I saw him and met his wife and daughter at the VA hospital at Bay Pines. He is in the hospice unit. That unit is unique because the people working there volunteer to be there. They are not assigned. Each has personal reasons for being there. It is an incredibly loving facility and filled with a respect that in overwhelming. An Army veteran working there delivered some fresh water and juice and, just prior to leaving the room, snapped to attention and saluted Dan. It was a crisp snap of salute. No words. No smiles. Just professional military respect for another vet.
They had a poster on the wall, a certificate made out to Dan. They had beads made of the same colors as the ribbon that all Vietnam Vets know and recognize for having served in Vietnam. Vietnam still holds emotional content that the average person will never understand. Never. We sometimes will tell the uninitiated that it is a “Nam thing” to try to best explain words or looks between vets.
The beads were delivered in a ceremony that will bring tears. The beads are put together by a Vietnam Vet and delivered by a Vietnam Vet to a Vietnam Vet. I have beads. They were given to me by a combat Vietnam Nurse that had worked on the unit and when she did it hit me hard. She was well-known for walking up to VN Vets that she found even in the elevator and doing the ceremony while giving them the beads.
Dan was in bed. His wife on the left and his daughter had just left the room when I walked in. They had warned me that he did not look like he had as his illness was taking its toll. Dan was in and out of it. I knew he was an avid hunter but did not know he hunted not only with rifle but with bow and with muzzle loader. He was an avid outdoorsman. They said he will be buried in an old cemetery up north and the grave will be close to the woods he so loved.
Dan is an Air Force Vet. Dan holds a purple heart. Dan survived a brain injury. Dan survived exposure to anthrax. Dan has a daughter, a wife, and a group of Vietnam Vets that love him and will miss him. Dan was a friend.