'I'd still go' - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

'I'd still go'

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Posted: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 12:48 am

HAYDEN - In combat, Larry Scott said soldiers like him never considered the possibility that their own government was poisoning them.

The unthinkable endured in his mind long enough that he was 52 years old and had been suffering with cancer for two years before he found out the truth. He had been poisoned with Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam, during his year-long tour starting in October 1970.

The 62-year-old Hayden resident said last week that he only has a few months to live. Or less.

"I may not make it to Christmas," he said.

In the meantime, he's just making the most of each day, spending it with family.

"Dying doesn't scare me," he said. "It's the process of getting there that gets you nervous because you just don't know what's next."

At 20 years old, he had been working for a few years at a grocery store in Kelso, Wash., his hometown.

He had no intention of going into the Army, but he got drafted.

"I got the wrong lottery ticket, I guess," he said.

He was sent to Vietnam as part of the 101st Airborne, specializing in tactical operations.

"My main job was plotting U.S. troop movement in the field for the battalion," he said. "Usually carrying a rifle out in the jungle wasn't my main thing."

He got exposed to Agent Orange near the demilitarized zone that divided North and South Vietnam during the war.

Agent Orange is what's called a "defoliant," a chemical that causes leaves to fall off plants.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of plant-killing chemicals to remove forest cover, destroy crops and clear vegetation.

"They sent me up there (to the DMZ) on a chopper to Quang Tri," he said. "Then they sent me out to a base called Hill 881."

He was there to plot U.S. troop movements, spending three days there.

"Then we got hit so hard, it was time to hit the boonies and get to a fire base for an 'Arvins'" pickup, referring to a term used to describe South Vietnamese troops, or the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), he said.

He continued, "If we could get there, they'd get us out of there with choppers."

The U.S. government couldn't rescue him and the other troops he was with because he and the other men were under heavy fire from the enemy. So he traveled the roughly three miles south on foot, and was airlifted to safety.

He also spent a month in the A Shau Valley, along the border with Laos.

"You ever hear of Hamburger Hill? It's right across from that," he said.

Between his time at the DMZ and his time near Hamburger Hill, Scott was exposed to Agent Orange, though he didn't know it at the time.

After Vietnam, he said, "I came home and had a hard time adjusting."

He has been living in Hayden since 2001. He moved from Spokane, where he had lived since 1972.

He spent his career in the trucking industry, doing both maintenance work and long-haul driving.

He has three grown children, and his primary hobbies were sports cars and travel.

Twelve years ago, at age 50, he found out he had advanced prostate cancer, spreading beyond his prostate.

He got pressured from his family and contacted the VA.

"I always said I was never around that stuff," he said.

The government researched his movements while in Vietnam, looking for any exposure to Agent Orange.

"They said, 'You weren't only in a heavily sprayed area, the DMZ and the A Shau was a high concentration,'" he said. "So there was no doubt in their mind that it was Agent Orange, based on when I was there and where I was at."

The VA took over his medical care, providing 100 percent of it at no cost to him.

"They said, 'You've got too many problems,'" he said.

Cancer doesn't run in his family, and prostate cancer like he has usually strikes years later, he said.

His cancer has been hard on his parents, he said. He has two older brothers who are healthy.

By 2006, he found out the cancer had spread to his bones, and he had to quit work.

It had moved into his vertebrae, ribs, both shoulders and the side of his skull.

He had so much chemotherapy over the years that he quit a few months ago. Now he's on Hospice.

His wife, Janet, said he maintains the strength and courage necessary to face his fate because of his faith and trust in God.

"And he's a busy person," she said. "I didn't know if I could keep up with him or not when I married him."

He plans to fight on.

His first grandchild is on the way in April.

"I'm hoping I make it that long," he said.

Knowing he's going to die soon has provided him with one luxury.

"I've been able to give my kids a lot of their early inheritance," he said. "And I've watched them enjoy it."

He has given out a couple Corvettes, sharing with a son and daughter his own lifelong passion for cars.

"It just overjoys me to be able to do that," he said.

He said a simple cold or something more serious like pneumonia will finally take him down.

"I'm going to die because of my military service," he said. "I accept that with pride, that I'll be giving my life as a result of serving my country."

Knowing how it's going to turn out, would he do it all over again?

"I'd do it," he said. "I'd still go."

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  • IChoseNID posted at 9:57 pm on Tue, Dec 4, 2012.

    IChoseNID Posts: 83

    God Bless you Mr. Scott, and thank you for your service.

  • milburnschmidt posted at 2:20 pm on Tue, Dec 4, 2012.

    milburnschmidt Posts: 1161

    My heart and sympathy goes out to Mr scott for his service aand the disability he ended up with. Having lost two close friends last year from agent orange related cancers this has been a shocking episode in our history for the deaths inflicted on our servicemen and the fact it happened. When one looks at the shocking way our troops were treated on coming home,the rules of engagement that inflcted to many deaths and the failed policies of that war and the lies it was a dark period uplifted only by the patriotism and effort shown by those who served.
    Our Government over the years has shown a outrageous indifference to deaths caused my the 50s nuclear tests on troops, agent orange,gulf war syndrome and even to civilian workers dying from toxic fumes at area 51 from burning exotic materials and then denying it happened. The recent fast and furious scandal and denials are also a continuation of the Govt attitude. These were not accidents but calculated decisions knowing that damage would happen and justified them anyway.
    I hope Mr Scotts final days with his family are of peace without suffering and his attitude shows what a hero he is and was. Those affected did no choose to go participate nor were they warned or told what awaited them. It was years before the Govt even admitted there was a problem and was drug kicking and screaming into showing all its cards.

  • Hayden Joe posted at 7:06 am on Tue, Dec 4, 2012.

    Hayden Joe Posts: 177

    It's when I read stories like this that I get even more livid at the gutless DC cowards who are in the process of gutting out the military healthcare system.

    They ignore the obscenely crooked military procurement system and of course will never put their own retirement and healthcare system on the table for discussion.

    We keep electing the same career, slicksters over and over, so I guess we reap what we sow.

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