In 2013 I received a diagnosis that changed my life. I have Parkinson’s disease (PD). For those of you that don’t know much about this disease, I would recommend the Michael J Fox foundation site at https://www.michaeljfox.org/. There is no cure for PD and not everyone with the disease gets all the symptoms but even though Parkinson’s itself doesn’t kill you it can sure speed things along. When people find out I have Parkinson’s I always tell them it’s a “Damn Inconvenient Disease” to have. Famous people with the disease (other than myself and Michael J. Fox) include Mohammad Ali (who passed away last year from complications of the disease), the comedian Robin Williams (Who committed suicide rather than face the disease), Charles Schultz (of Snoopy Fame), the British actor Bill Connolly (who had to stop playing banjo after he got the disease), The singer Neil Diamond and most recently Alan Alda of MASH fame. Parkinson’s can be debilitating causing motor problems, shaking, depression, and a whole host of other issues but as I mentioned not everyone gets all the symptoms and this makes it very difficult to diagnose until it enters its advanced stages.
The event that prompted me to discuss this issue on my blog is the news I received last month that my Air Force Buddy Fritz (last name deleted) called me to let me know that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s as well. Fritz and I were best friends in the Air Force and were stationed together in North Carolina, Germany and Thailand between 1971 and 1975. The picture below is Fritz and I in Germany a few months before we both rotated to Korat Thailand during the Vietnam War in November of 1972. (I am in fatigues and Fritz is in Civvies on the right).
Although researchers are not positive regarding all the possible causes of the disease, there are studies that show a strong correlation between harsh chemical exposure and the disease. Fritz and I both worked as aircraft electricians on the flightline and we both also worked in the base battery shop. Starting in about July of 1972, several months before we both went to Thailand, the Air Force started spraying agent-orange outside the fence at Korat to keep Viet Cong sympathizers in Thailand from taking pot shots at those like us working unprotected out on the flightline. Each month the empty 50 gallon barrels from the Agent Orange spraying program were brought to the battery shop for us to re-use. We filled them with battery acid and soda water, by-products of the work in the shop of keeping aircraft supplied with fresh lead-acid batteries.
My friend Fritz now lives in Colorado and is going through the miserable task of applying for disability from the Veteran’s administration. Although the fact that the Air Force had long admitted to the use of rainbow defoliants around its bases in Thailand and other areas, it is almost impossible to win a claim because some Air Force personnel never stepped foot in Vietnam. I am one of the lucky ones that could show that I was at Da Nang, Vietnam before I was shipped to Korat, but others like Fritz still struggle to find any records from over 40 years ago that would substantiate their claims. It’s hard not to be bitter when I see Veterans of more recent wars receiving disability seemingly automatically for a wide range of “potential” issues that could result from their service even before they show any signs or symptoms. Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that veterans are finally being given some respect in this country but it seems that those of us that volunteered to go to Vietnam and fight in a very unpopular war are still being treated as second class citizens. (I still remember the Hari Krishna dancers taunting us as we returned through the San Francisco airport and yes…I was actually spit on and called a “baby-killer” while I waited to find a flight home to Florida. It was 1973 and hairstyles for young men were generally long so those of us with our “high-and-Tight” haircuts stood out like beacons in the crowds at the airports so we couldn’t hide.)
Sometimes I think that our Nation would just like those of us that served in the Vietnam war to quietly go away because they are still embarrassed by what some have called the first war that the US ever lost. It will eventually happen. Those of us that were in that war are now mostly in our mid 60’s to early 70’s but isn’t it time that this country stopped treating us differently? Win or lose we were no different than any volunteer in this decade. We loved our country and wanted to defend her. Vietnam was one of the first wars where you could sit around your TV at night and watch the fighting as it took place (imagine…there were only 3 TV channels then). I think it really took guts for young men and women to volunteer after watching scenes of jungle warfare night after night with an enemy you couldn’t see and scores of wounded being carried out of the jungles on stretchers. In fact the mounting death toll was a statistic that was quoted almost every day in the press.
My Point is that my friend Fritz, and thousands of others like him from the Vietnam era who are just now experiencing the physical after-effects of the war should not have to struggle to be heard at the VA. We have had to deal with the mental anguish of fighting in an unpopular war for over 40 years. Isn’t it time that America (and the VA) forgave us for doing our duty?
BRC CEO and CTO, Former Sgt. USAF 1971-1975, Vietnam Veteran,
“Cognitive Psychophysicist with an interest in almost everything”
FOOTNOTE: It was suggested to me by a very astute employee that I add a sentence or two each time I add an article to the blog to highlight one or more of our most pressing current open hiring requisitions. These can be found on the BRC website at www.brc2.com. BRC Employees that refer someone that is hired to fill one of these open positions will receive a minimum referral bonus of $1000 (after tax). Here is today’s featured open position:
Decompression Software Engineer
Job Code: 18-NEDU-005
Location: Panama City, FL
Clearance Required: Secret
Job Description/Essential Functions:
Bevilacqua Research Corporation (BRC) is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned, Small Business based in Huntsville, Alabama incorporated in 1992. BRC provides “best-value” technical and management solutions to a diverse government and commercial customer base in the following key business areas: test & evaluation, systems analysis & integration, security & intelligence, and R&D.
This position is in support of the full-time on-site non-personal services computer software developer support to the Decompression Research Team of the Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU), Panama City, FL. This position to support a one-year effort.
- Specific emphasis is on support of development, documentation, and Verification, Validation, and Accreditation (VV&A) of computer software that supports development and operational implementation of various diver decompression procedures.
- Provides computer software developmental support of RDT&E programs in the fields of oxygen toxicity, diver thermal protection, and life support for underwater activity.
- Ensure that hardware and software developed and used by the Decompression Research Team conforms to NEDU, NAVSEA, and DON information assurance requirements.
- This work contributes to or affects mission effectiveness and operational capabilities and safety of U.S. Navy diving and submarine operations.
- B.S. degree in computer programming or a closely related discipline.
- Ability to obtain and maintain a Secret clearance.
- Prior member of a software development team, or with equivalent independent software development experience.
- Familiarity with each of the following languages: C# .Net, Visual Basic 6, Fortran, C++.
- Parallel programming for symmetric multiprocessors.
- Design and coding of graphical user interfaces (GUI) and hardware interfaces.
- Writing of software design documents and user manuals/documentation in accord with provisions of Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Level 3 and/or SECNAV Instruction 5200.40.
- Knowledge of and ability to conform to standardized coding practices including maintenance of in-line code documentation.
- Familiarity with the Microsoft Windows operating system, including software packaging (installation scripts, etc, user permissions, ensuring a secure environment).
Other Job Information (if applicable):
- USB device interface coding.
- Creation and use of Dynamically Linked Libraries (DLL).
- Creation of software executables from modules coded in multiple languages.
- Development of application-specific custom scientific software.
- Familiarity with the U.S. Navy or other industry Verification, Validation, and Accreditation process.
- Database development and interfacing with other custom software.
- Setup and maintenance of secure systems.
- Experience with diving and decompression algorithms.
To apply for this opportunity or see what other open opportunities are available at Bevilacqua Research Corporation, please visit our careers page at https://portal.brc2.com/careers/.
Bevilacqua Research Corporation. is an equal opportunity employer Minorities/Females/Disabled/Veterans and VEVRAA federal contractor. We recruit, employ, train, compensate, and promote without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin or any other basis protected by applicable federal, state or local law.