The blue banner. online resource ([Asheville, N.C.]) 1984-current, November 17, 2005, Image 10
News Page 10 llic lilue Banner — Sening the University of North Carolina at Asheville since 1982 November 17, 2OO51 Vietnam veteran shares stories about life after war By Lisa Gillespie Writer He hobbles out onto the porch with only one leg remaining, his beard speckled white with age. He served the United States govern ment for two tours in Vietnam, almost 20 years in the army, has worked as a head chef and has 12 children all over the world. Today, Earl Gray pushes himself for two hours to the streets of downtown Asheville in his wheel chair and asks for money, the only way he will be able to put food on the table. One-third of the adult homeless population has served their coun try in the Armed Services, and about 250,000 veterans live in shelters or on the street. Many vet erans are considered at-risk because of living conditions in motels, poverty and lack of sup port from family, according to the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs. “I get up and get cleaned. I get in my wheelchair and try to get money for food. Sometimes I get money, sometimes I do not. When I do, I go buy f(X)d and go home,” Gray said. “You find out where kindness is. They tell you to get a job, and you just look at them and laugh. If they only knew.” Veterans of the Vietnam-era con tain more disabled members than of any other war, about 24.8 per cent, according to the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services. One of the con tributing factors to this is Agent Orange, one of the herbicides sprayed from giant C-123 cargo planes to destroy the forests and fields that gave cover to the Viet Cong fighters. “Agent Orange has caused a lot of problems,” Gray said. “They are not saying it is from that. I have a tumor in the back of my head that they say cannot be removed. I have two knots in my stomach as well. I have not gone back to the doctor to find out what they are becau.se 1 don’t want to know. 1 just do not want to know.” In 2(K)2 and 2(X)3, an estimated eight percent (two million) of male veterans aged 18 or older were dependent on or abusing alcohol or illicit drugs, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. There is sufficient evidence of an association between Agent Orange and the ailments of chron ic leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease and suggestive evidence for prostate cancer, type two diabetes, neuropathy, brain tumors, stomach cancer and rectal cancer, accord ing to the National Academies. Eleven million gallons were poured over South "Vietnam from 1961 to 1971, over 10 percent of the country, according to BBC News. “Pain is something I live with,” Gray said. “After a while, you block it out. It is not going any where. I wake up, 1 hurt. I go to bed, 1 hurt. 1 am suffering from Agent Orange. They never ana lyzed what it would do to the human body. I have had 17 opera tions, three on my stomach, five on my left leg and six on the right, the leg that I lost. “After I came home, 1 was pro moted to Private First Class,” Gray said. “1 started to work on detail ing cars and then 1 worked in Charlotte at IBM. Then I went to work at Carolina’s Medical Center and the UNC-Charlotte as head chef. Then 1 became disabled. I had two heart attacks and a stroke. I used to be on drugs because of the pain of everything. By the time 1 realized where 1 was at with it, I was stuck. 1 messed my life up and I’m trying to get it back together.” The largest category of veterans on the compensation scale is at 10 percent disability ($108 per month), and depending upon the disability rating of the veteran, monthly allowances for a spouse range from $39 to $94, according to the Office of VA Affairs. “1 am trying to go through the VA Hospital to get her (Gray’s wife) to take care of me and be compensated for it,” Gray said. “I am fighting the VA Board because I have not been compensated for losing my leg. I have to go to Winston-Salem to meet with the VA Board. But I don’t have the funds to get the bus fare and stay in a motel. If I reschedule, it will be another six to eight months before they can see me.” Currently, the number of home less male and female Vietnam vet erans is greater than the number of service persons who died during that war, according to the Florida Department of VA Affairs. “I simply asked him if he could spare some change. He said, ‘Boy, I will never feed a n*****. I’m sending my money overseas.’ I will never forget it, it hurt. He did n’t have to do that,” Gray said. “When I came back from Vietnam, we were called baby killers and n*****s. What people did not understand was that we were just following orders. We thought we were doing the right thing, serving our country.” Gray’s family of sharecroppers moved from Spartanbuig to Asheville in 1956 for better job opportunities. He served in Texas, twice in Vietnam, Germany and Alaska. “I clear about $1,5(X) a month,” he said. “When we lost our home, we lived in motels and that is where most of our money went. I got caught up in the system. We lost our place and our money. They can say whatever they want. I spend my money trying to sur vive. Right now we do not have anything but each other.” Gray went to Stephens-Lee, Western North Carolina’s only secondary school for blacks for many decades. He dropped out six weeks before graduation because of an altercation with a teacher. “I knew if I went home, my mother would kill me, we had already bought my cap and gown and it was quite expensive,” Gray said. “So I left and joined the army. I have 12 kids all over the world. I have three step-kids and five godchildren. Racism is a lot better than it was years ago. Racism was a real problem. But like everything it changes, but it still exists.” Gray’s wife, Cheleste McCeure Chalk, has chromes disease, diabetes and arthritis, and is trying to be claimed as Gray’s caretaJeer. They live with Gray’s brother and his 16- year-old step-son lives with his moth er because of their cuirent situation. “I have worked at hospitals, but all of a sudden these sicknesses started to happen,” Chalk said. “I have always worked, that is what my mother taught me. I am a seeing-aid by trade. Between getting my medi cine and medical care, the money goes by quick each month.” Adam Hillberry — Staff Photografw| Earl Gray served two tours in Vietnam during the war. Today he pushes himself around the streets of downtown Asheville in his wheel ] chair, asking for money in order to put food on his table. SOA CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Diversity CONTINUED FROM PAGEll Quitting cold turkey alone can be difficult. years,” Mashbum said. Coca-Cola, however, represents only a small fraction of the prob lems in Colombia, according to Mashbum. “The Colombian military doesn’t want to be responsible for human rights abuses, so it releases its trained people to head up the death squads and its paramilitary forces, so officially, those human rights abuses aren’t on the record for the mihtary,” Mashbum said. Those trained people were trained by the United States, according to Mashbum. Since the SOA reopened under the new name of the WHINSEC, it claims to include “human rights” in its curriculum, according to Mashbum. “Then you learn what those trained people are doing in Colombia, and you reahze that the curriculum is really the same,” Mashbum said. The ongoing “War on Dmgs” in Colombia is a cover-up for the United States’ multinational eco nomic interests, according to senior Kristin Earhard, who also spoke at the fomm along with sophomore Amelia DeFosset. Earhard attended a workshop on U.S. policy and the situation in Colombia at an Amnesty International conference recently. Most of the aid to Colombia in the “War on Dmgs” is going toward the Colombian military, according to Earhard. “We’re just flying over and spray ing these toxic pesticides,” Earhard said. Students from Amnesty International, including sophomore Rob Waskom, coordinated the SOA Fomm as part of a series of discus sions. They are hosting a fomm on the death penalty Tuesday. “It’s a place for people to get informed about specific issues, but also to network students and faculty and people from the community about a huge variety of things,” Waskom said. Still, it is not just the administra tion that can be blamed for the iacl| of diversity problem, according to Luttrell. “Students play an enormous pail in this problem by silently com plying with the lack of diversity,” Luttrell said. “We as students, especially white students, have a responsibility to make noise and publicly question why this situa tion continues.” Much of the problem may deal with the lack of money distributed by UNCA to those who are notin the upper middle-class category- according to Gibney. ‘This university just does not seem to raise much money, and if we do not raise much money then we do not have much money to give,” Gibney said. “I do not thin! this campus is known for its gen erosity in terms of grants, probably black or white. But the failure is that we have an almost all-whiif campus and sometimes money talks here.” The lack of diversity negatively effects the whole campus, not only the students, but also the faculty- according to Gibney. “Classes are hard to teact because you only have the wta® perspective,” Gibney said ' r With free, confidential support from Quitline NC, you don’t have to go it alone. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800- 784^8669) any time between 8 a.m. and midnight to talk to a professionally trained Quit Coach. They’ll help you 5^ warm up to cold turkey and stay tobacco-free for good. QuitlineNC.com 1-800-QUIT-NOW Great fyodJ >i4and difffted'Bteyer's ice cream. Mention you’re a student and get a 1S% discount on milk sKol^I Open for lunek, dinner, and ALL NIGHT CLattd on Sunduj 51 Merrlmon Avenue at 1-240 Next to Exxon 238-1070 •OtTk CAIOUBA Health Wellness WtBw TI«$Tru«0 North Carebn hiWKHeoHh II gives an artificiality to classes thai is just not healthy. I think we art doifig a disservice to all students- as well as faculty because we lea® from students.” The New Student Diversity Task Force is a group of about f people who meet regularly ® order to correct the lack of divet sity between the students an teachers. “Our primary goal is to get ® policies from ‘The Blue Boo^ implemented,” Gardner sat “These policies still apply, they a® not that old and they are good fXJ cies. It is a serious problem an hope that the administration "j® be willing to work with us in he P ing change this. However, I it is going to take a whole loj student instructive to get thiDr- rolling.” j| Progress can only happe® ^ people are willing to stand up a® make a change, and the ty is a good place to start social movement, according Gardner.