SOURCE: Help Hospitalized Veterans

Help Hospitalized Veterans

November 12, 2013 14:35 ET

Craft Kits Help Vietnam Veteran Cope With Agent Orange Exposure

WINCHESTER, CA--(Marketwired - Nov 12, 2013) - David Sweet got his draft notice right out of high school. Deciding to take matters into his own hands, he decided to serve his country by enlisting with the U.S. Air Force. After basic training, Sweet was sent to technical school to become an aircraft mechanic. The skills he learned led to a deployment to Vietnam where he spent 12-hour days on flight lines for a year.

"All around us there were C-123 Operation Ranch Hand aircraft taking off, loaded with Agent Orange," said Sweet. "We didn't think much of it."

Agent Orange was used to defoliate the jungle, making it more difficult for the enemy to hide. Following the spraying the aircraft would return covered with chemical residue.

"We knew the troops in the bush were getting the stuff sprayed right on them, that they had it much worse," Sweet said. "Those guys would be in their uniforms for up to a month. They'd try to wash their clothes in the river, but the river had chemicals in it too."

Following his discharge Sweet went to work in the family business. One day, however, he couldn't lift his arms. "I was having a heart attack," Sweet said. Soon after, Sweet was diagnosed with hypertension, followed by four more heart attacks. Then diabetes dug in.

"It was one chronic thing after another, beginning when I was only 49."

Sweet sought care through VA where he was evaluated due to his exposure to Agent Orange. He was given a 100% service-connected disability.

Life hasn't been easy for Sweet, but he says one thing that keeps him going is working on the arts and craft kits he receives from Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV).

"I drive over to the next county where HHV has a craft kit program. I knew from the first moment I walked in that I wanted to be a part of it," Sweet reflected. "I was looking to find something I could become a part of."

Sweet met other veterans and together, they began sharing experiences. "I even told a veteran at my church about the craft kits and he wanted to try one," said Sweet. "Soon enough, other veterans in my area started asking me about it. I've now helped dozens of veterans get their craft kits," Sweet beamed.

"They love working on the HHV kits and it makes me feel good about myself to know I'm serving my fellow veterans," added Sweet. "We're very grateful to the donors who make these kits possible."

Since 1971, HHV has donated over 28 million therapeutic arts and craft kits to veterans receiving health care. For more information on HHV's Community Based Craft Centers or its Patient Home Rehabilitation Program, which sends craft kits directly to veteran's homes, visit HHV.org or call 888-567-VETS.

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