Band of brothers gives Vietnam veteran the help he never asked for

DEWITT, Iowa -- Jim Miller got off his regular shift at 5 A.M. Friday, then headed over to the Dewitt home of a man he had never met, to help put new shingles on his roof.

"I lived in Dewitt all my life and just met him today," he said.

He, and several others, members and volunteers with the local chapter of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, didn't hesitate a second when the group put out a call that a fellow veteran needed a new roof.

75-year-old Ed who had lived in the Dewitt home with his wife Maggie since 2003, says it didn't occur to him to ask for help - even as their roof was leaking into their fireplace room.

He said he felt bad accepting "this gift" but acknowledged he needed the help. "My physical abilities are limited to none at this point."

One of the first soldiers into Vietnam in 1965, he was stationed in Phuoc Vinh during a seven-month tour. Duty brought him to his knees at times. As a combat medic with the First Infantry Division, Ed had always been the one giving aid.

"I still have nightmares about being on my knees, putting his guts back in, and it's horrible" he recalled one incident.

He never turned away from service. Back home, he volunteered at the Veteran's Affairs hospital in Iowa City and provided services to other veterans. Eventually he became a paid part-time veterans service officer for Clinton County's Department of Veteran's Affairs.

"I love working with vets. We work with family members, sometimes it’s a widow." Ed helps them navigate paperwork on the homefront and he says he owes it to his battle buddies to keep going.

The hardest thing he's had to do was to accept help for himself, something it seems only those who have been there, on the battlefield, can understand.

It's the reason they come together, no questions asked, when there's a brother in need, Miller, the volunteer on Ed's home, said.

"Vietnam vets didn’t get the welcome that they deserved. Wen I came back, I got a welcome home party. He didn’t get that. This is one way of giving back to him," Miller said.

Ed wondered aloud if he deserved it all, as he fired up the grill to feed the band of brothers in his front yard.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.