Order of the Silver Rose: To Honor and
BY JIM BELSHAW
Seven years ago, Mary Elizabeth
Marchand flew to Utah to be at the bedside of her dying father,
Navy Chief Frank Davis. His cancer had been connected to Agent
Orange exposure in Vietnam. She tried unsuccessfully to have a
Purple Heart awarded to him. So she brought with her a plastic
rose coated with silver Mylar. Her father christened it "The Order
of the Silver Rose" and said, "I’d rather have this than all the
Purple Hearts in the Pentagon."
Marchand made other Silver Roses,
one of which went to Gary Chenett, who now lives in Michigan.
Shortly after Mary Elizabeth died in 1999, Chenett took over as
national director of The Order of the Silver Rose. Five years
later, the project continues to grow.
"We’ve given 1,600 Silver Rose awards," Chenett said. "Things have
been going great for the Silver Rose. We’re making great inroads
into the veteran community, especially in rural areas. There are
so many veterans who need to be educated about the benefits
Nominees for the Silver Rose must
meet the requirements needed for a Purple Heart but have not
received the medal. Details may be found on the Silver Rose
Blues singer Sarge Lintecum, a
Vietnam veteran, has written a Silver Rose song and donated 800
CDs to the organization.
"Every Silver Rose award that goes
out will have the CD included in it," Chenett said. "The Silver
Rose package has really been livened up with the addition of the
CD. We’re selling the CD, too. It only costs six dollars and one
dollar goes into an escrow account so we can purchase more of the
CDs when we run out."
Chenett said the organization is
looking forward to a celebration of Vietnam veterans planned for
the famed country music destination, Branson, Missouri, in June
"It’s called Operation Homecoming
and will run from June 13 to June 19," Chenett said. "They’re
going to have a giant celebration welcoming home Vietnam veterans.
We intend to be there with [Jennie Le Fevre’s] Quilt of Tears."
One of the Silver Rose’s primary
missions continues to be educating veterans on how best to prevent
or deal with the various diseases connected with Agent Orange
exposure. Chenett said that even with so many years having passed
since the end of the war, countless veterans still are unaware of
what precautions need to be taken and how to obtain VA benefits.
"You would not believe how many
veterans don’t know about the benefits they have coming to them,"
said Chenett, who was diagnosed with Agent Orange-related cancer
in 1993. "So many are in denial about these things, but we’re
breaking down barriers and making inroads because so many guys
have been carrying these burdens on their shoulders for so many
years. We’re getting guys in to get help, receive physicals and
full-body CAT scans, and receive compensation. The Silver Rose is
TOBY COLLINS: PROUD
"The grateful citizens of the
United States of America proudly award the Order of the Silver
Rose to Sergeant Donald Lee Collins, Sr., U.S. Air Force, for
military merit in the defense of his country while serving in the
Republic of Vietnam."
And so, during ceremonies at the
Armed Forces Retirees Club last August, Toby Collins received the
"I’m pretty proud of it, I’ll tell
you that," he said. "It means we’re finally getting recognized for
what we had to go through in Nam."
Collins recalled watching airplanes
and helicopters spray clouds of Agent Orange over the thick jungle
foliage. They would spray half a dozen times. Afterwards, nothing
grew there. He was relieved that the snipers had lost their cover.
Besides, he didn’t worry: He was assured by his superiors that
what killed the plants was harmless to him.
"It got in the air and traveled and
got into the water you drank. You were getting it from all
different places," he said.
Collins is no longer so naive, nor
is he so able-bodied. Two years ago, he had to quit work
altogether. Complications from Agent Orange-related Type 2
diabetes left him chronically exhausted. In addition, he had nose
bleeds, tremors, dizzy spells, and had lost feeling in parts of
his feet, Collins said.
He feels he deserves a Purple
Heart: "It’s owed to us." But he’s mighty proud to be honored by
his fellow veterans with the Silver Rose. So inspired is Collins
by Gary Chenett and the Order of the Silver Rose that he’s
applying to be a local director.
Agent Orange has left him with a
lot of free time. At 55, Collins never thought he’d be retired.
He’s angry now, not just for himself, but for his fellow veterans.
"Veterans are sadly misinformed on what their rights are," he
Toby Collins wants to help veterans
disabled by Agent Orange and the other pesticides used on the
battlefield in Vietnam. And he wants to honor them, too, with