Tractor-trailers, cargo trucks and fuel tankers – all moved slowly along the muddy, potholed roads in the Vietnam countryside. From dawn to dusk, they never stopped. Each loaded with ammunition, construction materials, combat rations and other war supplies.
As a Marine Corps corporal and roadmaster, Milton Verdoot’s job in the Demilitarized Zone was to stock these convoys with equipment before heading south to the frontline.
Under the hot, scorching sun and drenching monsoon rains, his company worked around-the-clock, loading truck after truck, each container and flatbed bringing troops the rations and supplies they needed to carry on the fight.
Now 76, Verdoot enjoys a quiet life with his wife of 55 years in historic Newbern, North Carolina. But the passing fighter jets from nearby Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point remind him of his service and his calling to remain Semper Fidelis – always faithful.
When he saw a brochure one day about a research opportunity to help his fellow Veterans, Verdoot was ready to serve again.
Leading the way for the future of medicine
Every week, Verdoot makes the two-hour roundtrip to Durham VA Medical Center, where he receives his medical care. After check-in one morning, he picked up a pamphlet to pass the time.
Veterans like himself, he learned, are invited to enroll in a genetics research program, advancing research and medical breakthroughs for all Veterans.
The Million Veteran Program, or MVP, is working to replace one-size-fits-all medicine with ‘precision’ or ‘personalized’ medicine. The vision is that one day, for example, Veterans will visit their doctor and get the exact health care they need to prevent, treat and cure disease.
MVP does this by collecting a one-time blood sample from Veterans for genetic analysis, along with information on their health, lifestyle and military exposures. This data is then safely secured and used to support research working to personalize care for all Veterans.
Once a Marine, always a Marine, and Verdoot saw this an opportunity to help his fellow soldiers. “Veterans helping Veterans – that is what we do. That’s the only way to do it,” he said.
He made an appointment with the MVP Program Coordinator to learn more.
Leaving a Legacy for Veterans
Like many of his friends, Verdoot came home from Vietnam having been exposed to Agent Orange. He was sprayed with the exfoliant and on one occasion a drum of the chemical broke open and spilled on his body.
By joining MVP, Verdoot hopes his data will help unlock the mysteries of Agent Orange, its long-term health effects on Vietnam Veterans and lead the way to better treatments.
In the meantime, he takes charge of his health by walking – more often now after a recent hip surgery. He boasts a 50-pound weight loss and looks forward to his 77th birthday this summer.
Verdoot is slowing down no time soon and neither is MVP’s research for Veterans.
Learn more about VA’s Million Veteran Program
To learn more about MVP, visit mvp.va.gov or call 866-441-6075.
MVP extends its heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to all Vietnam Veterans. Thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for your willingness to serve again through research.
March 29 is National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
Sandra Glover is the chief communications officer for VISN 9.