The War That Followed Him Home

 .Burn pit #6

 .

The newly listed online ad was what I had been waiting over a month for: A medium-sized, late model SUV with low miles and with maintenance records well documented. The seller was also the original owner, and the ad said he was a disabled veteran, and that he and his wife now only needed one car.

In my mind I pictured the seller as an elderly man, having served perhaps in Korea or Vietnam. I figured he probably walked with a cane, and had a U.S. and Marine Corps flag displayed in his front yard. It was wrong of me to assume this, but as a child, all the veterans I saw looked like this, and I guess the memory carried itself into adulthood.

When I called about the car however, the guy who answered didn’t sound like an old man. I asked a few questions that were promptly answered, and I decided the car was worth taking a look at. My friend Steve picked me up, and we drove to the veteran’s home located in the Northwest part of the Vegas valley. The man who answered the door was 27 year old Daniel Meyer, and although he wasn’t an old man, he moved like one. An Air Force helicopter electrician and mechanic, Daniel served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, and although he’s still technically considered to be on active duty by our U.S. military, Daniel is in absolutely no condition to work.

As he showed me the car, Daniel moved slowly as he pulled an oxygen canister behind him—it’s tubes running over his ears and to his nose, and then leading fifty-feet back to the concentrator unit located in his home. Daniel is on oxygen twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If he goes more than a few minutes without it, bad things start to happen. The government still has yet to approve financial coverage for his daily oxygen supply, so for now a local medical clinic is generously donating the necessity to the veteran.

Daniel explained to Steve and I that he’d been diagnosed with Bron­chi­oli­tis Oblit­er­ans, a rare and currently irreversible lung disease. Daniel said a double-lung transplant is needed, but because the disease has weakened his heart, he doesn’t qualify to be on the lung transplant waiting list. In short, Daniel was telling us his days were numbered.

How did this happen?

While in Afghanistan, Daniel was exposed to burn pits—open-air bonfires that burned such things as medical supplies, batteries, and plastics. Human limbs have even been thrown into burn pits—although done by the locals and not by our military. It was by inhaling these toxic and noxious fumes that Daniel became ill, and folks, that’s fucked up.

Watch a CBS News report on burn pits (the new Agent Orange) here.

I respect anyone who serves their country—either in combat or behind the scenes—but at least in combat, one knows taking a bullet is constantly in the cards. Out on the front lines one knows that getting shot, killed, paralyzed, or losing a limb is possible, and that it’s part of the risk that comes with enlisting. However, being a helicopter mechanic inside a hangar—and on an Air Force base—should provide a certain sense of security, and the last thing one should have to worry about is getting a deadly and rare lung disease.

I don’t know all the statistics and numbers, but it’s safe to say over five-hundred—and perhaps even thousands—of our service men and women have been affected by exposure to these burn pits. Some only have minor issues—such as treatable allergy symptoms—but others, like Daniel, have suffered the full brunt of the disease. From what I saw—and Steve agreed with me—not coming home from such a war alive would be considered a better alternative than having to face the future with this debilitating and unrelentless affliction. Daniel would probably disagree because he has such a positive attitude, a great sense of humor,  and is facing his battle head-on, and with extreme courage and faith.

Daniel is also a writer, and just started blogging at DanielMeyerBlog.com. His posts are well written, interesting, insightful and informative. I highly suggest reading his three-part series about how he met his awesome wife of over two years, Harmonie, and how after just knowing each other for only a week, got married. Check out his other posts too, and leave Daniel a comment. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.

Not only did I buy the car that Daniel is no longer capable to drive, but I also got something much more worthy and valuable—that being a humbling reminder not to take life and health for granted, and the reaffirmation that all war is indeed Hell, and it’s affect—both physically and mentally—will last much longer than any deafening silence from any weapon.

Thanks Daniel, and the car has been everything you said it would be.

 .

FiN.

14 comments for “The War That Followed Him Home

  1. Salina
    September 12, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Wow.

  2. Suzy
    September 3, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Once again, another brilliant piece. It brought tears to my eyes. Thanks, Tyge.

  3. Susan in France
    August 23, 2011 at 5:18 am

    Thank you so much for this beautiful article about Dan. I’m Dan’s aunt and I live in France, so Dan’s blog (and now yours) are my primary sources of information on his illness. As Aunt Joane stated, we are all terribly proud of Dan but bitterly shocked and disappointed by the incredible mismanagement that has led to this tragedy.

    • Tyge
      August 26, 2011 at 11:27 pm

      Merci! I’m glad you liked the post, and I hope many people read it, and become more aware of this issue that until I met Daniel, I was unaware of.

  4. Joane
    August 21, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    You have written a marvelous piece. We are all very proud of Daniel and you have acurately described his positive attitude. I hope the Government does the right thing for my nephew, and for all veterans who come home with disabilities. Don’t let our soldiers down, USA. They have given much for our freedom. Let us give back to them.

    • Tyge
      August 26, 2011 at 11:37 pm

      Joane, I whole heartedly agree with you. I worked with a guy who passed away from being exposed to Agent Orange, and over 30 years after Vietnam, there’s still a hazy area the government refuses to acknowledge. I can only hope the burn pits are more recognized, and proper amends are made by the government and military, and in a reasonable amount of time.

  5. Patti (Grammy)
    August 21, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Tyge: I would like to thank you for the wonderful article about my grandson. His family & friends know all about him but you just met him and saw the person we all see. Again thank you for posting this so that others may know of the possibilty of this illness.

    • Tyge
      August 26, 2011 at 11:44 pm

      Your welcome Patti, and thank you for the comment. Daniel is an inspiration, and I was honored to meet him. When we shook hands after I bought his car, it meant more to me than just buying his car… I was shaking hands with an unsung hero.

  6. August 21, 2011 at 9:40 am

    So Tyge, I woke up this morning and logged in to my blog to finish writing my next article. My dashboard loads and I see I have a lot more page views than normal (because I just started writing a few weeks ago). I clicked on it and read the article and was astonished that it was about me. You wrote an absolutely great story seeing as though we only met for an hour or so! I appreciate it more than you could know and I hope the car treats you well for years to come!

    Part 3 to my blog series, “Living Life With a Major Illness” will be up today. Thanks again and I will link my readers over here.

    • Tyge
      August 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm

      Thanks Daniel,

      I wasn’t sure if I should have used your name or not, but then I found your blog, and figured it would be alright. Glad you enjoyed my post, and I must say your posts are very enjoyable too. Keep writing, and people will keep reading!

      Lovin’ the car, and getting a new radio installed this week.

      Take care, and keep the faith.

      • August 25, 2011 at 11:54 pm

        My family and I appreciate this article more than you can imagine Tyge. We have been circulating it on Facebook, trying to raise awareness. Thank you again man!

        • Tyge
          August 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm

          Your welcome! According to my sitemeter stats, plenty of people have been clicking on it!

  7. Dawn Wheeler
    August 21, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Wow, another amazing story Tyge. We have a blog at Walgreens that is basically a bitch fest, I may suggest they all read this guys story and rethink what they are complaining about!

  8. cynical.girl
    August 21, 2011 at 7:54 am

    I’m Speechless. Thanks.

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