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I was appalled and stunned when Don Keelan wrote in on of his columns a while back that veterans in Vermont are not respected — forgotten!

As a veteran who worked on the U.S. Senate committee on Veterans’ Affairs and was a reporter for the “Stars and Stripes” in Washington D.C., I can report firsthand that Vermonters especially highly respect and honor our veterans.

When I had COVID-19, AFIB (heart) and later a spine fusion (four long screws and two bars drilled into my spine), many numerous folks and businesses came to my rescue with tons of soup, dinners, and six Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas dinners with presents. A year and a half later, my refrigerator is still nearly full.

The Rev. Dr. James Gray, his wife Esther, and many members of the Dorset Church literally kept me alive with dinners and gallons of Rev. Gray’s secret, homemade soups. And his many trips to fill my nonstop, gulping wood stove and checking my oil furnace were well-received. If anyone wonders why he wears extra-large shirts and jackets — well, they are to cover his wings; I actually saw a few feathers poke through while he was moving my wood. At times I had over 10 phone calls a day and daily ones from the V.A. checking up on me.

At my request, H.N. Williams store and the post office in Dorset put up more visible handicapped parking signs that are easier to see in winter. Thank you! One post office employee actually delivered my mail on her way home even though I have a box.

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The Dorset Library contacted me, offering any books, etc. that I might want to read. Since I could hardly walk, the Bennington Sheriff’s Department escorted me in early April, assisting me while I delivered sweet potatoes donated by a farmer and greeting cards with gift certificates from Price Chopper (who also helped me to my car with groceries) and Shaw’s to needy folks living alone. A million thanks to the Sheriff’s Department, especially Deputy Christopher Miller who drove me on my mission.

Also thanks to: Manchester Rescue Squad, Dorset Fire Department, Rutland Regional Hospital, Dartmouth Hospital and the entire V.A. — no kidding. The Rutland Regional Ambulance Co. sent an ambulance with a technician each time to my home to give me the COVID-19 vaccinations (February and March). WOW!

Gosh, I had just checked in to the ICU at White River Junction V.A. Hospital when a doctor and nurse said I have a call from our own representative in Congress, Peter Welch, asking me how I was doing (a 20-minute call). How did he know I was there? I hear from his staff every three weeks, as I do from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ and Sen. Patrick Leahy’s offices.

I will be indebted forever to these kind folks who have compassion and caring for veterans, some they don’t even know. They helped to keep me alive, and turned compassion into boots-on-the-ground.

Serving the veteran and disabled veteran community is a sacred deed and Don Keelan, these angels are called Vermonters!

Garry DuFour, of Dorset, served as a combat chaplain’s assistant in the 101st Airborne Division, Vietnam, when he was injured.


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