Every year, my dad used remind us that #MemorialDay was *not* about him bc he didn’t die in the service. Nevertheless, when people saw him in his Vietnam Vets hat, they thanked him for his service.
My dad died earlier this year. This year, I’m honoring him anyway. This is why 🧵
My dad, Michael C Bartha, enlisted in the Army right out of HS at age 18 in 1968. He served on US nuclear bases & in #Vietnam. He was honorably discharged in 1973, at age 23. He died in January of this year, at age 70... several decades after his service.2/
His first posting was at the then-top-secret Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. (1968 or 69) He served in the Army Air Defense Artillery as a Nike Hercules Launcher Crewman. He was given no protective gear when he was tasked w/breaking down a nuclear warhead. 3/
Aside: ifyou are watching #Chernobyl , then you probably have an idea where this is going...
He also served in Vietnam for most of 1970 w/the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He served at a forward operating base at Phú Bai, Binh Tri Thien and Camp Eagle for close to a year & received a number of medals & honors for his service. 4/
When he returned to the U.S., he served as an instructor for the Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, NJ. (I was born on base in November 1971.) He was honorably discharged in 1973. He was 23. 5/
The day before his 40th birthday, my dad learned he had chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) a very rare form of the disease. He was told it was mostly found in survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki. He was also told he may have 1-3 years left. 6/
So, some protective gear WOULD HAVE BEEN A NICE THING to have on the Florida nuclear base the Army said didn’t exist. We suspect he was ineligible for vet benefits for that reason. No matter. My dad was a fighter. He got into an experimental protocol for a new med: interferon 7/
Aside: Seriously! They let my father monkey around with a nuclear warhead without even a HAZMAT suit. Who does that?

We’re also lucky he didn’t blow up Florida. My dad couldn’t even safely operate a table saw!
Anyway, Interferon became the standard treatment for CML. When Gleevic -an even better med- was still in its human testing stages, he was one of the test subjects. He spent the next 30 years of his life staying alive this way. Other people lived longer bc he was a test subject 8
Meanwhile Phu Bai, Vietnam was ID’d as an area exposed to Agent Orange. Several years after the leukemia diagnosis, dad developed severe neuropathy in his hands and feet linked to type 2 diabetes. Because he was exposed to Agent Orange, he did eventually get benefits for that 9/
My whole life I watched my dad’s health deteriorate, stabilize, deteriorate more, stabilize. I’ve only mentioned the 2 major illnesses that are a direct result of his time in the service. He had many others: crippling arthritis in his spine, a pacemaker, and so many injuries 10/
Aside: and the damn table saws! Most people who come close to losing a finger on a table saw learn their lesson the FIRST time. Not my dad... 🙄
I have not even mentioned his PTSD. I grew up not knowing at the time that his outbursts of rage were another casualty of his service. (He only acknowledged it just before he died.) His trauma in the service directly affected our entire family, especially when we were young. 11/
Thru all of this, my dad was also a big goofball who loved a good laugh and he was one of those people everyone liked to be around. Being in the service, 30 years of chemotherapy, a crumbling spine, 9-1/2 fingers - he laughed at all of it.
That helped keep him alive 12/
Aside: He also got to travel, visiting almost all 50 states. Alaska & Hawaii were his favorites. And lived to meet his grandchildren (my 4 & my niece, not pictured)
We believe he had a major silent heart attack in December, just before his 70th birthday. It went unrecognized (Who can tell the difference when you have all this going on?) He died January 30th of heart failure - his heart had gotten too big. But we knew that already. 13/
Anyway, that’s why I’m honoring my dad this Memorial Day, even though he’d say I shouldn’t. He died 50-some-years after he was on active duty, but we all lived every day of his life with the illnesses, injuries and trauma that were a direct result of his service. 14/
If you meet a retired veteran, don’t just thank them for their service. Ask them to tell you their story. There are many other servicemembers like my dad. They didn’t die on duty, but they may carry an injury, an illness or trauma. It’s our duty to listen
@threadreaderapp Can I get an unroll so my mom doesn’t guilt me about not showing her things I write?
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