MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
When Joe Chasse came home from Vietnam in the early 70s after his fourth combat tour, not only did he get spit on and receive other forms of ridicule, he didn’t receive the adequate medical treatment for issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that service members receive today.
He found himself waiting in a Veterans Affairs doctor’s office in Rhode Island for hours on many occasions for his war-related injuries, only to be seen, in his and many others opinions, by medical staff with no compassion for people who were otherwise forced into an unpopular war.
That was then and this is now. Whether the current wars are popular or not, today war veterans receive gracious homecomings, care packages from a myriad of thankful organizations and top-notch medical treatment. Chasse could remain bitter about his treatment after Vietnam, but he, like thousands of other Vietnam veterans, choose not to.
On May 17, he and four of his closest friends and members of Marine Corps League Bucci-Atwood Post 376 in Providence, R.I., visited Marines with Wounded Warrior Battalion-East aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune with a two-fold mission: donate $1,000 to the battalion and visit with some of America’s heroes.
Chasse, who is the post commandant, said he and his members wanted to do something for the wounded warriors and last October, they held a breakfast in Providence to raise the funds. The MCL members then decided to make the trip and deliver it in person.
“When the Wounded Warriors (Regiment) stood up a couple of years ago, we immediately began thinking of ways to help out,” said Chasse, who retired from the Marine Corps after 22 years. “For many of us, we haven’t been back to Camp Lejeune in nearly 40 years, so we thought we could hand deliver the check and also talk with a few of the Marines.”
After presenting the check, they had had the chance to speak with a few of the wounded warriors.
Cpl. Matthew Bradford, a wounded warrior with the battalion who is blind and a double-leg amputee, talked with some of the members to ensure them things are ok.
“I’m doing ok,” Bradford said while addressing the members. “The staff is very accommodating and they do a great job taking care of us.”
Staff Sgt. George Young, also a wounded warrior with the battalion, spoke to the members about how much he appreciates the veterans taking time out of their schedule to come visit.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Young said. “I love it when I run into these guys. They came all the way down here from Rhode Island and that means a lot.”
Hannah Edwards, the battalion’s charitable organization liaison, handles all donations and all scheduled visits for the battalion. She said they enjoy positive outreach from the communities that support them.
“They are grateful for their recognition of service,” said Edwards. “When people come out and visit these guys, it really lifts their spirits. It’s knowing that there are people out there who care.”
John Rogowski, the post chaplain, said while the Vietnam veterans endured a harsh environment when they returned home, he hopes even after the current wars are over, the government learned its lessons from the aftermath of Vietnam.
“During the Vietnam War, at home, veterans were not taken care of,” Rogowski said. “When it was over, the veterans were completely forgot about. It is my hope that the recent Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are not forgotten. That is why we are here.”