Honoring a veteran killed by The U.S. Government and Monsanto’s Agent Orange during The Vietnam War. Theodore Romaszewski, a United States Marine who served as an E-4 Combat Engineer from 1968 and in country from 1969-1971.
The Last days with my father before he passed away…
My father Theodore Romaszewski USMC served as an E-4 Combat Engineer from 1968 and in country from 1969-1971. I do not know the unit he was attached to. Hoping to find that out on my quest for information about the time he served. He passed away in 2005 from many diseases that the VA listed as a result from agent orange to include Diabetes Type 2, Interstitial Lung Disease, Ischemic Heart Disease, Lung Cancer, Peripheral Neuropathy in his foot as well as Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis among others .
He talk to me twice about his time in Nam and what he shared about his time was heart breaking. He had nightmares about some events that haunted him his entire life. He was a quiet man, one with few words. His siblings say quite opposite of him prior to his tours. I was raised mainly by my father a good part of my life while I wad growing up. He was very hard on me. If I wanted anything beyond necessity I had to buy it. This meaning I had to get a job when I was 16. I had to save my own money to buy my first car, when he could have bought me a brand new one with cash. I didn’t realize at the time the morals, work ethic and value he taught me until I was older. I can’t be more thankful to have had such a wonderful father.
In Vietnam my father endured 10 years of suffering and surprising to many he made it as long as he did, only to the young age of 55. The photo below shows the ravaging affects Monsanto’s Agent Orange had.
I remember seeing him scoot up the stairs on his butt because he didn’t have the strength to walk. My dad was always a tough man and to hear him yell out in pain from across the house, there was no doubt he was in severe pain.
I thought he was invincible and never wanted to face the fact that his time was limited. I was naive to all the subtle signs and things he did as he was preparing all to be in order as he knew his time was approaching fast. Looking back, I wonder how I missed them.
While in and out of hospital regularly, the last trip we made was to the VA emergency room. He had private health care insurance and I could not understand why there until afterwards. This trip to ER didn’t seem any different than any other time. However, I was concerned he was coughing up blood. We arrived and they took him back immediately. He was asked to fill out some paperwork and told me, I have been named the power of attorney. I think nothing of it.
Every day after work I would spend my afternoons in the hospital for about a week. I showed up one afternoon and they moved him into a sectioned off room. They told me he had pneumonia and if I wanted to go in and visit I had to put on what looked like an alien suit. I was hesitant but it was the only way they were letting me into his double doors, air tight sealed room. I wore it long enough to get into his room. When I made it, it all came off as it felt like a barrier between us. My thought was, if he in fact had pneumonia, then surly I have already been exposed and even if I got sick I didn’t care. I was all my father had and I had to be there for him.
That evening we held hands for a long time, he said it helped him with his breathing and to relax. This was a very rare evening as my father has never been the affectionate type. The following day they put him on a ventilator and he told me it’s okay as long as he is kept knocked out because he does not want to feel the tube down his throat. This was not the first time to be on one.
From the use of the ventilator (this machine) breathing for him, his lungs became too weak to take him off and now it became life support.
That next afternoon when I arrived, the doctor spoke to me telling me they misdiagnosed him and he didn’t have pneumonia. It was in fact lung cancer. The doctor told me very indirectly, to say my final farewells to my dad and asked if I wanted them to lower his medication dose so he could be conscious to say goodbye. I told them NO as he requested, but I also didn’t want to have this type of conversation, “A Goodbye”, with him. I didn’t want him to see me cry, I wasn’t strong enough to face it – there was no way I could discuss this with him. I wanted to be the strong one for him as he always had been for me.
He was in the ICC Unit (Intensive Critical Care) where only 15 minutes are allowed for visitation. Upon entering his room, I was surprised to see my picture on his chest as I didn’t know he had a picture of me with him. The nurse said that it was the only thing he was concerned about while being shuffled place to place around hospital.
I still remember vividly seeing my dad lay on the hospital bed, his entire body swollen from the IV fluids. I grab his hand and talked to him as I watched every breath of air being pumped into him. I would see his chest fill up and release while he lay unconscious. Each time the air went in and out it was causing his head to jerk side to side.
The nurse came in and told me it was time to go and while saying my goodbye and slipping my hand away from my dads, out of nowhere he grips it not letting it go. This was the only sign I had to know that he did know I was there.
The nurse was very surprised and said, this is the first time he has made any type of acknowledgment to anyone. Seeing this she said I could stay 5 more minutes. I stood there silent holding his hand watching him in a lifeless state and I saw for the first, the only and the last time tears run down his face. I never-ever saw him cry or yet even shed a tear until this very moment.
I knew it was goodbye and SO terribly hard to walk away. The next morning as soon as my alarm went off, I called into work to request off. Not even 10 minutes later my phone rang it was a doctor from the hospital telling me to hurry if I wanted to see him a final time. The doctor continued to tell me they just resurrected him and it’s only a matter of time. Within minutes of hanging up my phone rings again. The doctor proceeds to ask me if I want them to continue to bring him back to life.
I was speechless; the line was quite as I ran this over and over in my head thinking of course I do. Only to realize, that it would only be a selfish request. My dad has had faced hell on earth and how dare I let him suffer any more.
I think he survived as long as he did, for me in the first place. I always told him “Daddy please be strong, I need you” and he did.
The hardest word ever to come out of my mouth was to say “NO” at that moment to the doctor so my father could be in peace rather than suffer one minute longer than he already has.
Within 10 minutes, my phone rang again for the third and final time. I already knew who it was and what this call was about. I could barley even grasp the air to say hello, to listen to the doctor begin to tell me my father had died. I dropped the phone before he could finish telling me what I didn’t want to hear. I lay down on my bed listening to my breaths in and out – in and out…
What happened during his time in Nam that he shared would make any decent human being cry. So if and when he did, it was when he was alone. I don’t remember him crying when my sister, his adopted daughter passed away at 13-years-old. He was very resilient to all the evil life had in store for him yet he persevered time and time again.
The final unselfish thing he did was requested to be cremated. Being a Catholic this is a pretty tough decision. He went as far as to putting it in his will. His reasoning was he wanted to make sure his hard earned money he had been saving went to my sister and I and not towards any burial.
So 8 years later his Urn and ashes are with me on a memorial display I have created. I will spread his remains one day but I am not yet ready. I don’t think he would mind.
My fayher served with the 1st Battalion 1st Marines FMF (FMF Description) The United States Fleet Marine Forces (FMF) are combined general and special purpose forces within the United States Department of the Navy that are designed in engaging offensive amphibious or expeditionary warfare and defensive maritime employment. The Fleet Marine Forces provide the National Command Authority (NCA) with a responsive force that can conduct operations in any spectrum of conflict around the globe.
Here are Combat History and major expeditions he partiipated in that other Nam vets may appreciate – in the pic just sent.
To end this in my father’s words, words he believed in, taught me and lived by..
Always faithful in all he ever did in life.
Written by Rachel Romaszewski