IT EARNED HIM HIS FIRST PURPLE HEART
Kenneth Richard Holt was drafted in to the army in 1968 at age 19 and was sent to Vietnam within five months where he was in the infantry.
This is a formal service picture of Ken and the other as a door gunner in Vietnam. During one mission into a village, he started to fall into a punji pit but his 60-pound backpack helped him to throw his weight backwards. His leg was wounded in the pit though, which earned him his first Purple Heart. He then started training as a paratrooper but injured his knee during a jump and didn’t want surgery that was required to remain a paratrooper so he volunteered to be a helicopter door gunner. Kenny didn’t realize that the expected life span was only six weeks! While flying, one of Kenny’s jobs was spraying Agent Orange and he would be soaked in it for hours at a time. He also got shrapnel in his hand, which earned him a second Purple Heart. He returned home in 1970.
Ken’s older brother, my brother, and our brother-in-law are all Vietnam Veterans. Our son-in-law is in the Air Force now. Kenny loved nature, especially fishing and hunting. He lost touch with everyone he served with because he was sent home quickly when his father died unexpectedly. He didn’t have time to collect addresses or phone numbers. I know he really regretted that. He didn’t belong to any group officially but he always made a point to say “Welcome Home” to anyone he saw wearing a Vietnam Veterans hat since they didn’t hear that back then. The last picture was taken at the reception after we had a renewal of our vows for our 25th anniversary. We were married for 40 years. Kenny was so proud of our son and daughter, Chad and Danielle as well as our grandsons, Colin and Ian.
In 2004 Kenny was diagnosed with kidney cancer. It took five years for me to win his service connection for that. Then in 2010 he was told he had a Glioblastoma brain tumor. He passed away in September 2011. That began another battle with the VA and I was finally awarded DIC benefits in July 2016. September 2016 will mark the fifth year that I lost my husband, Kenneth to a Glioblastoma brain tumor.
Our group Vietnam Veterans with Glioblastoma Multiforme Stage IV Brain Cancer is working hard to convince the VA to add Glioblastomas to their presumptive list. After watching our husbands suffer through this horrific disease, widows shouldn’t have to begin a new fight for benefits. It speaks volumes that we had to create a social media face book page to bring attention to this ever increasing and suffering disease. Our group is fighting for the VA to add brain tumors to the list and we feel we are getting close to accomplishing that goal. I am one of the administrators on that site. Please visit our page and “Like” us in show of your support https://www.facebook.com/NamTanker/?fref=ts
I was waiting to first win Kenny’s case before beginning another fight for our son, who was diagnosed with an ependymoma brainstem tumor at age 16. He’s 36 now and I am collecting evidence to file a claim for him due to Kenny’s service connection. Ependymomas are in the Glioblastoma family.
~ Laurel Smith Holt
These Interviews and Stories are collected by Jenny La Sala