KevinKevin has spent the better part of his life serving his country in Vietnam and his fellow Vietnam soldiers back at home. In 1969, Kevin was a college graduate and expectant father when he was drafted and sent to Vietnam. For a brief time he served as a clerk and though he was offered an officer track he declined, preferring instead to “remain with the men.”
His decision took him into active combat where Kevin was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), seriously injuring his right arm. “I was on the machine gun and it (the RPG) was going for the tank beside me…and the round came under the rear wheels and took my arm off. So they stacked me up with the wounded, no one got killed that night.”
No one got killed, but Kevin who was right handed, lost the use of his right arm. During his time in a hospital in Japan, Kevin learned first hand the terrible medical care afforded the fighting men in Vietnam; the constant screaming in the crowded, understaffed wards compounded his trauma.
Two years after his return from Vietnam, against the advice of doctors, Kevin decided to have his arm amputated. Doctors felt it was better to have a damaged, natural arm than an artificial arm. “Most folks don’t use prosthetics,” he was told. But Kevin, a tenacious man, had things to do. He was determined to have a working arm.
Kevin learned to rely more and more upon his left arm. Adjusting to the prosthetic arm has been a struggle. But that didn’t stop him from rebuilding a car engine or installing new flooring in his home. “I work on my car, I do what I got to do…I’m still learning to adapt. I lost one of my arms, but I didn’t lose my mind.”
Kevin has spent his years after his service in Vietnam working with Veterans Connect, providing outreach to veterans, offering groups, life skills and supportive counseling to Veterans on the street.
“I did street work, I did jail work, I did the groups. I did work that folks didn’t want to do…I’ve seen the underbelly of the city in terms of working with the homeless veterans.”
Since retiring, Kevin has continued to do work “that folks didn’t want to” in his outreach role, and his work on the San Francisco Commission for Veterans Affairs and with East Bay Stand Down. Besides his volunteer work with veterans, Kevin’s spends his free time practicing yoga.