Legion friends help Vietnam vet: Soldier suffers cancer related to time in service

August 28, 2018

CLYMAN – Marvin Hanke remembers a lot about his time in the U.S. Army, serving in Vietnam from June 1968 to June 1969, and spending the following year stateside.

He had seven photo albums when he left Vietnam, but doesn’t blame his comrades for lifting six of them before he headed back to the U.S. Friendships and memories were made and those who shared them couldn’t be faulted for wanting a piece of them.

Still, it was no party.

“I always say of my service, ‘It was a good experience I didn’t need,’” Marvin said. “I was 18 when I got a letter inviting me to come to Milwaukee and register for the draft.”

It was a dramatic change from his life on the farm, and he was soon stationed on active duty in Vietnam. One thing he remembers is clearing the landscape with a nozzle in his hands and a canister of Agent Orange on his back. It was a part of the routine to prevent enemy fighters from getting too close to the bases and camps that were their temporary homes. The chemical compound helped, but danger and death were still common.

After his first year, Marvin had the option of staying in Vietnam another five months or of serving a full year stateside. Having seen some of the bloodiest combat of the war, he chose the latter.

“There were a lot of bullets flying around out there,” he said.

After his service, Marvin returned to Wisconsin, moving around a bit before he bought a 28-acre farmette and built a dream home with his wife Barb. The two had known each other for years, but it was only after Barb divorced her first husband that they got together. That was 27 years ago, and they have remained devoted to each other, in sickness and in health, ever since.

This is Marvin’s second bout with cancer – the first one being colon cancer. He now has a form of skin cancer that causes lesions in his brain and his body.

Marvin has no complaints about the care he has received or the benefits he has received from the Veterans Administration or other programs. The costs, however, are still high.

“They don’t cover everything and it’s very expensive,” said Marvin. “The VA is trying its best to help, but it all takes time.”

“He’s on two chemo drugs and each drug, for a month’s supply, costs $30,000,” said Barb. “We checked all of the pharmacies around here and it costs the same at each one of them. The drugs are classified ‘experimental’ so insurance and Medicare don’t cover them.”

Marvin and Barb were both raised on farms and both have a love for animals. They had to sell their registered Hereford bull to help cover the shortfall for medications. Other animals will have to go, not only to raise funds, but to cut down on work as well. Marvin, for example, rents 17 additional acres to raise the hay his animals eat. The couple maintains a herd of 10 steers, three cows, four horses and a Sicilian donkey, about 25 chickens, an emu, and some bobwhite quail and pheasants (Barb used to raise and sell them by the thousands).

Two mini Yorkshire terriers, Rascal and Taz, protect the house

Now at 70 and undergoing many treatments, Marv and Barb can no longer keep up with their menagerie, despite the help of family and friends.

Doctors are currently deciding whether to continue Marvin’s chemotherapy drugs, which make him sick, or to pursue a course of intravenous immunotherapy (another form of chemotherapy). Dosages are the tricky.

Marvin’s older sister, 77, has driven them to treatments in Madison, and Barb and Marvin’s children have also helped.

It came as a bit of a surprise when fellow American Legion members announced that they were organizing a benefit for Marvin on Sept. 16.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that your friends and neighbors are willing to help you out,” said Marvin. “People are really generous and helpful, and we surely are grateful for it.”

“It turns out that the Legion Auxiliary president’s son and our grandson are good friends,” said Barb. “Susie Davidson called up and said, ‘I didn’t know Marv was that sick.’ I assume the two boys had talked and that’s how it got going. Marvin’s a very humble person, but it warms our hearts knowing that people appreciate his service and value him as a person.”

A breakfast and brat fry will be held at the American Legion Post 15, 162 E. Oak St., Juneau, Sept. 19, from 7 a.m. to noon. All costs are being donated to the cause.

An account has been set up at Hustisford State Bank, 200 S. Lake St., for cash and check donations.

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