LATHAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Veterans issues are a hot political issue, and where the Veterans Administration has not been able to help vets, private companies have begun to step in.
Marine Ken Clukey, 80, of Latham, explains why veterans hang on to their proud past, including keeping their uniforms.
“I guess because we fought so hard for them,” he said.
Clukey is a Vietnam War veteran, who is part of the largest group of veterans alive today. He’d rather forget memories of being sent into the tropical heat of the Vietnam forest on patrol with fellow Marines – until he’s prodded to remember.
“I’m calling in an air strike,” he recalls while looking at an old photograph. “He’s taking ammo up to the mortars. To the front.”
The one Marine in the image was carried from the front lines in a bag. Clukey later took a hit from a “Bouncing Betty” landmine. With a shattered leg and shrapnel in his scalp, he wore his size 39 military dress uniform home to recover and quietly hung it in the closet.
“Cause people didn’t treat us too well when we came out,” he said.
After a long career in the Latham Post Office, Clukey retired, but his leg wound flared up and he suffered a several stroke last Christmas. After several years, the highly decorated marine veteran needed a little help.
Even a simple task like managing vitamins and medications can be difficult for a veteran fighting off old war wounds and a stroke. That’s where Iraq War Army medic and 7th generation veteran James Davis comes in. His father was also in Vietnam.
“The stuff that my father and Ken saw is very powerful,” Davis said. “When you hear it and see the physical reaction that someone has, the psychological toll is really, really, really demanding.”
Davis runs Right at Home, a private business in Latham that caters to veterans with a single purpose:
“He gets to live his life the way that he wants to because he deserves it because of the commitment he gave to everyone else,” Davis said.
Clukey pays for help to stay in his own home, but it comes with an extra benefit. As a fellow vet, Davis understands.
He only recently found and brought Sgt. Ken Clukey’s old uniform out from the closet. It’s now very much part of the two vets’, and now friends’, proud past.
“I get the meds, and if I need to go someplace, there is someone to take me,” Clukey said.
“I just love the fact that Ken is here safe by himself cause that’s his choice,” Davis said.
The kind of home care provided by Right at Home is often not fully covered by many insurance policies.
Even though Clukey has disability and insurance, he pays $24 per hour out of his own pocket. It’s not cheap, but for him, it’s worth it.
It gives him companionship and keeps in his own home, and that is the most important part of all.