Vietnam veteran stays fit while supporting the organization that “fights” for veterans
When Vietnam veteran James Hamilton stepped up to the starting line at the 2018 DAV 5K, it was his third time racing on behalf of the organization that he said “fights” for veterans.
“DAV has the whole program — they will fight for you, for all disabled veterans — for a claim, for anything. DAV will help you,” said James.
Back in 1968, not long after his high school graduation, James enlisted in the Army. A year later, he was called to serve in Vietnam. Eleven months and one day later, James returned home with a service-connected injury and a Purple Heart.
“I never got a ‘Welcome home,’” said James. “Some of my close friends didn’t know I was in service.”
But that service, he said, probably changed his life.
“Even though I was wounded, service probably changed my life. I got married, had three kids — did my best for them, and my kids are professionals and well-respected in their professions,” said James. “The discipline I learned as a young man in the Army prepared me better than if I hadn’t gone into service and stayed in South Carolina.”
In 1994, James became a DAV life member. DAV assisted him with benefit claims and continues to assist him with a decision about a service-connected injury that he has appealed. During his time in Vietnam, jumping out of helicopters into deep grasses, uncertain of the depth, left James with pain and arthritis in his knee. His primary care physician at the VA hospital told him about the DAV 5K.
“My doctor told me about the 5K and she said I’d get exercise,” said James. “In part, the DAV 5K motivated me to lose weight and maintain my weight. I have a goal to do the course in under 45 minutes. I want to get in the top five of my age group.”
“In the event, you can walk — you don’t have to run. I try to spread the word about it,” said James. “Each group I go to, I tell the guys, ‘This is something to do.’ It’s a way to release some of the stuff that is held up inside for years.”
James has participated in the DAV 5K multiple times.
“I raised close to $1000 in each one. Last year it was $980, and the year before, $900. My friends and family donate. Even my primary care doc donated.”