I went to the VA Hospital in Topeka today and I saw several older guys wearing Vietnam Veteran hats.  It reminded me that I went to Vietnam with a bunch of kids not a bunch of old farts.   For the last couple of years, Barbara has been telling me that I am getting deaf and need to have my hearing tested.   When I was in the VA Hospital in 1969 they tested my hearing and told me there that later on when the damage to my ears really caused deafness, I would need to have the VA provide hearing aids.  With that advice in mind I went over to the Hospital and got sent home with a bunch of paper to fill out.  Needless to say, they claimed that I really wasn't eligible for free medical treatment and they would provide treatment so long as I had a medical provider or was willing to pay for it myself.  The catch is I will have to pay for the testing to see if I am elligible for a service connected disability.

Today I went back and explained that what I wanted was not free medical care, but an evaluation of my hearing and then a determination if it was service connected. I am very happy with the medical care I get from the local Hospital and Doctors. According to the DAV the only thing I could hope for in this effort was for the VA to give me a 20% disability and that portion of my retirement to be Tax free.  I wonder if having a ringing in my ears 24/7 and a mild deafness is worth any price.  

The hearing loss started in basic training at Fort "Lost in the Woods" (Leonard Wood), Missouri.   I loved the M-14 rifle but it was one loud noisy sucker.   As I shot it, we would often put cigarette butts in our ears or go home from the ranges slightly deaf.   I qualified Expert but I am pretty sure that my deafness started there.  

Iwent from Lost in the woods to Fort Sill, OK and the home for wayward cannon cockers.  Most of my training in Advanced Individual training was done in a Fire Direction Center and it was only slightly loud from the radios.  My 23 weeks in Officer Candidate School (OCS) was on the guns for only a couple of weeks but compared to the M-14, the Howitzers exceeded the pain threshold a lot. 

At Fort Irwin, CA, I spent a month or so running through the desert running between 175mm guns as a safety officer.  If you think the 105 or 155mm howitzers were brutal, you should be near a 175mm gun as it goes off.  In the first unit I was in,  the battery was put in a position where the guns were split by a double apron concertina and one night I was right in front of a 155mm when it was fired.  Literally my ears bled.

In Vietnam, as a forward observer, we would move from location to location during the day.  There was no way I could wear ear plugs and hear anything that was happening out in the jungle.  The only blessing was the M-16 was not nearly as loud as the other weapons.

One thing I want to point out was that in my youth and after the service, I wasn't a fan of loud music especially concerts.  Even today, I take my ear plugs when I go to a KU Basketball game because of the 110 Db sound.

Do you know how to tell an old Artilleryman?     Real LOUD!!!



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