Gerald Kenyon joined the United States Air Force out of highschool, and in 1964, he completed training as a weapons mechanic at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado. A short while later, he was sent to Vietnam where he served a tour of duty, stationed at DaNang Air Base where he loaded guns on a Republic F-105 Thunderchief.
He arrived the day President Lyndon B. Johnson authorized the use of Napalm, and the day after the first U.S. combat troops arrived at China Beach. He stayed in Vietnam until April 8, the day after Johnson gave his “Peace Without Conquest” speech. From there, he was stationed in Thailand following an agreement with the U.S. to allow the use of bases in that country during the war.
In April, 1968, he was discharged.
“I glanced at the paper briefly and saw that it said “Honorable Discharge” and then we put it in a safe deposit box and forgot about it,” he said. Newly married, Kenyon had his future ahead of him, and went to work building a life for himself and his family.
Gerald and Judy settled down in Great Bend where they raised their family.
Gerald had a long career in oilfield maintenance, retiring in 2014 from Stewart and Stevenson after 30 years. Retirement is what spurred him to finally apply for benefits with the Veterans Administration. That’s when he learned that his tour of duty in Vietnam had not been included on his official discharge papers.
For 20 years, the couple has lived with Judy’s delicate medical condition. She has an inoperable brain tumor that causes her to have seizures. Medication and an implant that provides a mild electrical shock to her brain throughout the day helps keep symptoms manageable. But the treatment is expensive, and while Gerald was employed insurance helped cover the costs, in retirement, the couple needed a little help, so he decided it was time to apply for the benefits he’d earned so many years before.
Sitting down with a representative from the Veteran’s Administration in Wichita, he learned that his service in Vietnam was not listed. Having served in a war zone can make a big difference in the level of benefits a veteran is eligible for, so the representative began an investigation into his service record right away.
But like anything in the government, it took months to finally determine that indeed, his service records in the military archives in St. Louis included his service in Vietnam. It simply hadn’t been included on his discharge form. With the help of the VA, Gerald finally has a corrected form and his veteran’s benefit is already paying off for him.
He’s been able to receive the care he needs at the V.A. Outpatient Clinic in Hays with little wait time. They’ve taken good care of him, he said, and that’s lifted away the burden of some of his concerns over how to take care of Judy.
“I waited a long time, and I’m glad I finally signed up,” he said. “I’d definitely recommend any veteran sign up, even if they are healthy. It’s a benefit they’ve earned, so there’s nothing to lose.”
And thanks to the assistance of the Veterans Administration, Gerald is now proud to display his service medal and appreciative of the people who have had a hand in helping him to get a simple mistake corrected.