LAGARTO, Texas — A Live Oak County Vietnam veteran said he’s been waiting more than 50 years for benefits and decorations he was told he was eligible for.
Thomas Brown said the first time he went to the VA for benefits, he was immediately dismissed because he was a Vietnam veteran. He said he simply wants what he was promised 52 years ago.
“I’ve tried all along -- trying to get benefits -- and I couldn’t get anything,” Brown said.
Brown is one of many Vietnam vets who say they never got the welcome home they deserved for fighting a war for which they didn’t volunteer.
“People over here were ashamed of the United States for being over there, and they blamed it (all on) us for going,” Brown said. “We were drafted and went over there.”
Sent in 1965, Brown went to Vietnam in 1967. He was assigned to the 92nd Engineer Battalion in the Binh Long Province. In 1968, he was injured while changing the jaws on a rock crusher.
“Evidently I hit an edge someplace with a sledgehammer and a piece of metal came off and went in my leg,” he said. “I didn’t even feel it until they told me I had to get it out.”
That piece of metal narrowly missed Brown’s artery. He was taken to the hospital, and even though his injury wasn’t suffered in combat, it did happen in a combat zone. That’s why Brown said doctors told him he’d be eligible for a Purple Heart.
“Yes, and my company C.O. said that, too,” he said.
About 20 years ago, Brown started the process to get his award.
“They told me I had to have five people I was over there in Vietnam with saying that I got injured over there,” he said. “They should have the medical records from Vietnam from the hospital taking that metal out of my leg.”
Brown said he keeps in touch with one person he served with, Douglas Brunner of Nebraska. Brown said he hasn’t asked Brunner to write a letter, and isn’t sure it would do any good.
“Why go through all the trouble? It’s in my medical records, why don’t they pull them and look at them?” Brown asked.
Veterans In Focus reached out to U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D/TX-15)for assistance with Brown’s case. His office said it will contact Brown to see if it can help.