Surrounded by his wife, son, and grandson, 70-year-old Gary Adams of Valley Park was in a reflective mood.
“I’ve had a good life, a successful life.”
Adams is preparing for an honor flight to Washington DC this weekend, organized by his family with the help of St. Louis Honor Flight.
“They’ve been doing all the legwork,” said Adams, referring to his wife, son, and daughter. “I think it’s one of the greatest things in the world."
With the help of hospice care, Adams is making end of life preparations.
“Right now there’s nothing they can do for me,” said Adams. “I’m dying of liver cancer.” Adams believes exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam has contributed to his terminal cancer and said he's disappointed that his Agent Orange medical claims have been denied. Yet he gives high marks to the medical care he's received at the Veteran's Administration.
When he flies to Washington DC via the honor flight this weekend to visit military memorials, it will likely be the last time Adams flies anywhere, adding even more significance to his honor flight.
“I know I just have a matter of time and I want it made easier for my family.”
Adams worries about how his wife Deana will get along without him. They married 49 years ago.
“I think I’ve made my plans well enough so it won’t be too hard on my wife. That’s what I want, to make it easier on my family.”
Adams’ military service also holds a special place in his heart. For decades, Adams was an active member of POW-MIA, the organization which resolves the fates of Americans held prisoner, or missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. He is also an active member of Amvets, the largest and oldest veterans service organization.
“I’ve been a very strong supporter of the POW/MIA prisoner of war, missing in action group here in St. Louis,” said Adams. “I helped establish the museum down at Jefferson Barracks.”
The retired U.S. Army sergeant gets emotional when talking about the buddies he lost during his 14 months of combat in Vietnam.
“A lot of blood and guts,” said Adams. “I’ve got several of my friends who are on the wall.” Adams plans to visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall this weekend to say goodbye for the last time. Then he’ll return to Valley Park, for his final days.
“I know it’s coming. I’m prepared for it,” said Adams.