My husband, Jim Caldon, was a Navy Seabee who served in Vietnam in the late 60’s. When our children were 2, 4, and 6 years of age it was determined that my husband suffered from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – Stage IV. The prognosis was “two years.” My husband lived for nine.
However the years of chemotherapy, interferon shots at home, prodigal and experimental cancer treatments resulted in my family losing him emotionally and physically before his “final” death in July of 1996 following a bone marrow transplant.
After many years of medical testing, the VA classified my husband’s death as “service-related due to his exposure to Agent Orange.” Our children are now 27, 28, and 30 years of age and live with the fact that their Father died for our Country and our freedom.
Our oldest son, Sean, graduated from Georgia College and State University with a B.S. Digital Media degree. While he is now working fulltime, Sean’s goal is to return to college part time to obtain his graduate degree.
Our daughter, Logan, graduated from Valdosta State University with a B.S. Psychology degree and married her college sweetheart, Brian Jones. They now live in Tennessee with our three beautiful grandchildren.
Our youngest son, Bryan, is a former instructor in the Navy Nuclear Power Engineering Program in Charleston, SC where he received the “2004 Commanding Officer’s Personal Excellence Award.” Bryan and his beautiful bride, Ali, were married in March 2011. Bryan just returned from his deployment at sea on the U.S.S. Stennis stationed outside Bremerton Naval Base in Washington State and was recently awarded the honor of Chief Petty Officer. He is now serving as a Naval FIDE Instructor.
I once wrote a speech for a baccalaureate class before a group of young people on the impact of the Vietnam War on so many families as, for so many, the Vietnam War has not ended. For our family, a reality. After fifteen years of required VA documentation, attending a VA Claims hearing before the Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington, D.C., receiving both a successful ruling by the NC Court of Appeals in Raleigh, N.C., and a Joint Motion Remand from the U. S. Court of Veterans Appeals in Washington, D.C. in September 2010, we still wait.
Our oldest son said to me, “Mom, this is a small battle compared to the “war” you have already won.” My son was referring to the years we struggled watching my husband slowly die from his exposure to Agent Orange and our struggle financially after his death in 1996 – which continues due to our now 15 year battle with the Board of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C.
On this Memorial Day and everyday, I listen to the lyrics to Lee Greenwood’s song, which says, ”
“That I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me”
I know in my heart that my husband is smiling down from Heaven and is very proud of his legacy as we live on in his honor and memory.