Helping a neighbor suffering from Agent Orange

An essay By Morris Dean

I learned today that Michael H. Brownstein, the author of a little book of poetry I’m reading, happens to be the head administrator of Project Agent Orange. Learning this reminded me of an email from a friend the other day. His area of Mississippi was hit by a big storm this week that knocked out the electrical power. The first official notice said power was expected to be back on by 10 pm.

But as 10 o’clock approached, another notice said the power might not come back on until 4 am. My friend said the second notice really got his attention, because one of his neighbors is a Vietnam Vet who is dying of COPD, because Agent Orange messed up his lungs. My friend thought the vet had enough battery power for his breathing equipment to ride out a 2-hour electrical outage, but not enough to last until 4 am.

My friend went to check on the vet. And it was a good thing he did. The vet’s emergency tanks weren’t working and all he had was a small side pack that was almost out of air. The vet had tried to get the people who supplied his tanks on the phone but they were closed. He was in pretty bad shape.

My friend knew that the vet had a generator in his garage, so he pulled it out. But he couldn’t get it started. All he had to see by was a small flashlight, and it wasn’t providing enough light. My friend asked his wife to go see whether their next-door neighbor could bring a bigger flashlight, which he could and did. With the added light, they found the generator’s on-off button and were able to get it going. Next they began running extension cords to the vet’s air pump, so he could breathe better again.

My friend also crawled into the attic and plugged the vet’s A/C into the generator. The next-door neighbor went back home, but my friend and his wife stayed with the vet awhile, pouring themselves some of the vet’s Gentleman Jack and visiting with each other until the power came back on, at about 11:30.

—Morris Dean is the editor-in-chief of the blog Moristotle & Co. [].

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