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    Thank you for your service, Uncle Mike

    Thank you for your service, Uncle Mike

    Photo By Sean Kimmons | A young Mike Kimmons poses for a photograph in his Marine dress uniform before being...... read more read more



    Story by Sean Kimmons            

    Defense Media Activity - Army   

    Sean Kimmons

    It's been over two years since my uncle, Mike Kimmons, died from bile duct cancer, believed to be the result of his exposure to Agent Orange while fighting in Vietnam.

    The former Marine's cancer spread quickly. Once his symptoms surfaced, it was only a few months before the cancer took his life, just before the spring of 2014.

    The last time I saw him was during Christmas. He had a horrible cough, later identified as a symptom of the cancer. At the time, though, our family thought it was a common sickness that would pass. We all thought Uncle Mike would soon be back to cracking jokes again. But he never got better.

    One of my regrets was never being able to say goodbye to him. I also never thanked him for his military service, which included a tour of daring missions in the Vietnamese jungle. His health effects from these missions later reared their ugly head in the form of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and presumably his bile duct cancer, also known as cholangiocarcinoma.

    My uncle and thousands of other U.S. troops patrolled the thick vegetation, hoping they wouldn't walk into an ambush or set off a hidden booby-trap. They were often far away from any support. On top of that, Agent Orange -- a toxic blend of herbicides used to eliminate the tropical foliage that gave cover to the enemy -- was sprayed on the very areas they patrolled.

    The older I get, the more appreciative I am for the actions and sacrifices of these veterans and the others who fought in combat before me.

    A dozen years ago, I first deployed to Iraq with the Army's 25th Infantry Division. Like in many other parts of the country, there were daily rocket attacks and roadside bombs. It was certainly dangerous. But I believe the experience of troops in the past, with their lack of technology, armor and modern-day medical care, was far worse than what I had experienced.

    When I redeployed, my uncle shook my hand and said he was glad to have me back safely. I knew then the two of us had a shared understanding of the misery of war -- something only combat veterans could understand. But I never prodded him for more details about his own time in Vietnam. It was one of those things he rarely talked about.

    He found solace in the company of good friends, some of whom were also Vietnam vets. He also escaped in his music and volunteered to perform with fellow musicians at veteran events.

    On the Marine Corps' birthday in 2012, family and friends gave something back to him when they dedicated a brick in his name at a local veterans' memorial in Lincoln, Nebraska. Though humbled by the surprise tribute, he didn't think he was all that special from other vets.

    "I don't know that I deserve to be honored any more than anybody else," he had said at the time.

    He'd been wrong about deserving recognition for his own service -- of course he did. But he'd been right that every other veteran deserved recognition, too. And that's what Americans do on Veterans Day: they honor the veterans who have served in the past to give our nation the freedom it enjoys now, and they honor the veterans who serve today to preserve that freedom.

    This year on Veterans Day, I'll do the same. But the veteran I'll honor the most is my uncle -- a man who I am proud of, who I share the kinship of combat with, and who in the past I'd forgotten to thank in person for the freedom he fought to preserve for my family.

    Thank you for your service, Uncle Mike.

    (Original article can be found at:



    Date Taken: 11.10.2016
    Date Posted: 03.03.2017 16:01
    Story ID: 225633
    Location: FORT MEADE, MD, US 

    Web Views: 401
    Downloads: 1