Paul
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November 2016
72
Born in Washington, D.C.
Living in Pennsylvania
Vietnam memorial volunteer

“The whole system just got to be so scrambled. Multiple layers of money, that’s what it takes. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to get the best candidate. I don’t think we did this year.”

Paul lived in Lanham, Maryland – “a simple dot on the map” – for 20 years, and after high school “bumped around” for a couple of years until joining the service. “I went to the Navy in 1964 and was there five and a half years.” In 1967 he was in Vietnam, on a guided missile cruiser. “Then I got transferred to a destroyer and finished out the Vietnam tour on her.” Back in the U.S.A. he married, had 3 children and a variety of jobs to feed the kids. “I didn’t have a career. I worked in hardware retail, sales, real estate, I drove a truck…” Our talk is taking place at the window of the information booth from the Vietnam Memorial, in Washington, D.C. “I was here when the first shovel was turned for the memorial.” On his shirt, a golden badge says “V.I.P. 26 years.” What does it stand for? Very Important Paul? “This is as far as they go, they don’t have any higher numbers. Actually my number should be 33.” V.I.P stands for “Volunteers in the Parks”. “People want to know where’s the bathroom, where’s the metro station and to find the location of a particular name on the memorial.” Coincidently a man comes and asks for a soldier deceased in combat, in 1967. Paul opens a book, similar to the yellow pages, and finds it. “We noticed you have the sticker ‘I voted’ upside down.” “Well, thank you. Ahahah! I think I voted differently than most people. I saw the list for presidents: democrat, republican, libertarian, green… and then, where it said ‘other’ I wrote there a name, because I’m just so… confused.” What advise would Paul to give to the future Americans? He remembers basketball coach Jimmy Valvano’s speech, when he retired due to cancer: “Never, give, up. Never, give, up.” He pauses and then continues. “I had diabetes for 18 years. I had a quadruple bypass. I had a stroke. I had lumbar surgery four years ago. And last year I had spinal surgery, that put rods and screws on my back. I also have an artificial eye, diabetes killed this eye. And all and all, here I am.”

Where on the map