Thursday, September 08, 2005

David Tyree is ill -- His WWL radio listeners may want to know.

New Orleanians who listen to WWL radio will be saddened to hear of the condition of radio talk show host David Tyree. A mutual friend sent the email below to me this morning. David is in Oklahoma, and has been for some time, but he is not doing well.

I spoke with David again last night in Oklahoma, and I spoke with the one he calls a sister (David was orphaned and taken in by a farm family as a young boy in Oklahoma). The one he calls his sister, Connie, told me he was at the end. Janis had just spoken with him too and found him weak. He will be dead soon.
When he was first diagnosed with the cancer, I was with him. The Doctors were mystified that such a young man could have such an advanced case of this kind of cancer.
He was forced to stop working.
I was helping him try to figure out a way he could keep his home, his car, pay his bills, survive economically. As he was a VET with a VA loan on his home, he telephoned VA to see if there was some kind of waiver of mortgage payment program for a disabled Vet.
The man he spoke with at the VA advised there was no such waiver program, but he asked three questions; 1) what type of cancer did David have, 2) had he served in Vietnam, and if so, 3) where had he served in Vietnam and on what dates.
When David answered the questions, the man at VA demanded that David immediately forward a physician's letter regarding his medical condition to the VA and he advised David that the VA would pull his military records and submit an application for benefits under the "Agent Orange" settlement.
Within one month David recieved a substantial lump sum payment and began to receive monthly benefits of over $3,000 a month as a "victim of Agent Orange," a victim of the very government and military that he served in Vietnam.
David had served in the Ashau valley of Vietnam during a time when the U.S. military dropped "Agent Orange" over the valley to defoilate the tropical jungle, reduce sections of the jungle to dust in order to provide better aerial recon of enemy troop movements.
The use of Agent Orange was approved by the highest levels of the U.S. Government, namely Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. In high level meetings where the effectiveness of the chemical was explained, questions were asked about the impact the chemical would have on living creatures, especially humans, in the zones where it was deployed. It was decided that these collateral losses, including the losses to our own troops who were on the ground, would be what was termed "acceptable losses."
Thousands of former American soldiers have died as a result of our military using the chemical. A very few like David received some financial assistance prior to dying agonizing deaths. In David's case, the financial assistance came only because David made a phone call inquiring about a possible waiver of a mortgage payment and was fortunate enough to speak with a very concerned and informed clerk at VA. Many who have died from cancers caused by Agent Orange are men who no doubt died in abject poverty.
Once when David was moving residences from an apartment on Esplanade to a house near the Fair Grounds, I was helping him. A box slipped out of my arms and the contents spilled onto the floor. I reached down and picked up a medal and held it in my hand. It was was bronze star and it had a "V" for valor. Having served as an army clerk, I knew this battle decoration was just below a congressional medal, one of the highest decorations the Army bestows. I showed David the medal and asked to see the citation that accompanied the presentation. He tried to dismiss the medal, and he tried to change the subject. It took months of my insisting to see this document before he showed it to me. Reading the document made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Under intense fire, David had exposed himself to enemy fire and made his way to a disabled radio, repaired the radio and made a call for an air strike that was credited with saving a battallion of young American soldiers.
When I got David to talk some about Vietnam, he told me he arrived in Vietnam and four days later found himself standing with his newly issued jungle fatigues and duffle at an LZ, landing zone. He watched three helicopters land and off load body bags of GI corpses. He said he turned to a Sergeant and asked, "Where are we going?" and he was told, "We're going where those bodies are coming from."
For a year, David was in a camp on a hill in this valley on the border of a country the VC hid in. Every night they were under attack all night. Every day was quiet and during the day the destroyed perimeter was rebuilt, fortified for the coming night attack. The U.S. military wanted to be able to say we were holding this hill, and the whole time he was there that is what we did. We held the hill during the day, hung on to through the night, and lost a lot of people in the nightly attacks. The enemy was never pursued across the river beneath the hill. Our job was just to hold the hill as it was a push pin on a map in some general's office in Saigon and perhaps on a Pentagon wall as well.
David survived that year on that hill, survived hundreds of brutal enemy attacks, and returned home to die as a result of a kind of friendly fire, a victim of a chemical attack by our own military, by our own government that sanctimoniously decries the use of chemical and biological weapons by others.
As a kind of sidebar to David's story, I want to mention that when David received his draft notice and reported to Oklahoma City for his physical, he could have easily avoided induction by simply truthfully informing those at the induction center that he was gay. Gay men did not have to serve in the military. David never had to serve, never had to go to war. He chose to serve his country, to be a soldier, and he served bravely with distinction.
The unjustified, unwinnable war that enriched the friends of presidents, took the lives of fifty thousand young Americans on the battlefield, maimed another half million, and has killed an unkown number like David long after the war finished and America began paying millions to Vietnam to rebuild the destruction we wrought there in a war that is fading fast from the memory of Americans. David too is fading fast.
I cried last night after talking with David. I cried for David and for my country, a country that has consistently been guilty of some of the most horrific things on this planet while at the same time holding itself out to be better than everyone else in the world.
It took a tragedy in New Orleans, following an invasion of Iraq, for the world to began to see America as it is, a good country with many millions of wonderful people whose hearts and heads are aligned with what is good, that is sometimes led by men who are evil.
I ask your prayers for America, and for the one some of us sometimes called "Davey" and all those like him, American victims of America, for that is what Davey is and that is what the refugees of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are, and they are indeed refugees, people displaced by government action or inaction.
In a large way, the world is seeing "American victims of America" today. That is what David was, an American victim of America.


Garland and Norma Vierra said...

David will always remain in our thoughts and our hearts. He was an awsome friend. Garland had the honor of working with David at WWL Radio and Norma had the honor of just being his friend and being able to laugh and smile a lot with him. He was one hell of a man! We sure miss him.

Bobithy said...

David was my brother. A man I knew well but never knew enough. When I was seven-years-old, David came home on leave from Vietnam to stay a couple nights visiting me, my mother and dad. David, while sharing my room with me, laid beside me telling me stories of what he did overseas. We talked for hours during those two nights. He wanted to stay home but couldn't.
He never again spoke of the war. Even during our later time together. He loved kids, new talent and his beloved New Orleans Saints and would do anything to help someone.
I miss you brother!
Bob Maleschusky, Oklahoma City, ok.

Bill said...

If only most politicians were as concerned about the welfare of others as David was, we would all be living in a better world. The people of the New Orleans were lucky to have him as an eloquent advocate of their interests on WWL radio. He is greatly missed by many of us.