Vietnam veteran's memories fade as Alzheimer's progresses

KING 5's John Sharify reports.

Ask Lon Cole to tell you the things he’s grateful for, and the Vietnam War veteran will go on and on. He’s that kind of a guy. 

“Life is a gift,” he said. 

Always optimistic – his favorite thing to say in fact is, “I’m alive and thankful.” 

The 69-year-old’s favorite thing to do is write poetry. He’s published three books in the last few years entitled Alive and Thankful, You’re Never Alone, and his latest book is called Celebrate Survival

I first met Cole in 2013 when we shared his story of living with Alzheimer’s. He was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. As you might imagine, this unforgiving disease is taking its toll. 
Cole’s greatest fear? 

“That I’ll be a burden to my family,” he said. 

“He realizes now that he’s deteriorating a lot more than he ever did,” Cole’s wife Kris said. 

Cole knows his memory is fading. 

“I’m starting to forget my family’s names,” he said. “I call them by the wrong things. I have to urge to put something that belongs in the ice box into the pantry and things that go into the pantry in the ice box. I catch myself when I do it.” 

The former Vietnam War medic continues to write, and he’ll continue to write as long as he’s able to. 

“This is a poem I wrote when I was in Vietnam,” he said. “After a few months of being a medic. It’s called Scream of Pain: ‘If you hear the scream of pain you will know a soldier was slain. You can hear the poor boy cry from a thousand miles, as I sit there watching him die.’’’

He writes from experience. Cole had men die in his arms in Vietnam. 

“I was patching up Marines and we got ambushed,” he said. “Right away I had two die on me. They were blown to bits and I should have died too, but the shrapnel went the other way. It’s hard when you lose them and you can’t save them. That’s the ultimate agony.” 

Cole was awarded the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, and a Presidential Award for his service in the Vietnam War.  He says he’s now working on a children’s book. 

If you’d like to reach out to this veteran to get information about the books he’s already published and about his service, you can reach him at alonzocole@gmail.com.

© 2017 KING-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment