“There are still people out here in America, in these small towns, that still take care of veterans,” an emotional Bruce Scott said after a group from the community donated and set up an exercise pool for the Vietnam veteran. “I’m still pinching myself, I can’t believe it.”
Scott suffers from lingering effects of Agent Orange, a defoliant used during the Vietnam War that was also a highly toxic poison. This friendly fire has stricken Scott with sinus problems, diabetes, cancer and now an inability of his bones and joints to handle hard surfaces. The four-by-eight-foot water tank installed in his backyard will now allow him to participate in water aerobics and hopefully benefit from its therapeutic effects.
Scott, a Lone Pine resident, said by phone that he has always had a hard time asking for help himself, but is always looking for ways to help others. He said that was the way he was raised.
Scott was instrumental in gaining the county’s approval for constructing handicapped accessible ramps at Diaz Lake.
He has also been an advocate for veterans, showing support for returning troops every chance he gets.
“I fought for this country and when I got back they called me a baby killer and they spit on me,” Scott said. “Agent Orange gave me diabetes, cancer and so many operations and now the joint and bone problems. But I’m still proud to be an American.”
Scott joined the Army in 1970 and was deployed on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, for a full-year tour as an engineer for the 18th Engineering Brigade. He said he was a small-framed young man and made into a “tunnel rat,” searching for the enemy in underground passages.
He said the job of the engineers was to be dropped in a thick jungle area and clear a small swath, or clearing pad, “with M-16s and chain saws” that could then be used a small headquarters or firing ground. The engineers would also use Agent Orange to clear paths, which is how Scott came in contact with the extremely toxic dioxin.
He said he had talked to a couple people about his situation but didn’t make a fuss about it. Scott could be seen during the Memorial Day weekend at the Bishop City Park and the traveling Vietnam Wall. He said he has always been active in supporting veterans and was there as a patron and a patriot. He was also looking and asking around for an old water trough or some other water tank for his doctor’s recommended water aerobics.
A generous donation of a pass to Keough’s Hot Spring and gas money was deeply appreciated. However, Scott said after a while he could not afford the gas money to travel from Lone Pine to Bishop.
“They said they were going to do something, and then they just showed up,” Scott said of a group of volunteers from up and down the Owens Valley. The crew appeared at his house on Monday, started driving stakes and set up the water tank in no time.
These volunteers want to be identified only as volunteers, except for the Advocates for Access to Public Lands, which wanted credit for spearheading the operation.
“This is about Bruce,” one volunteer said. “We didn’t do this for the publicity, we did it for a veteran. People in the community should know that we still care about our veterans.”
Scott said he was in shock over the outpouring of support. “When you need it the most, there are still good people in the world, good folks that come to the rescue. This is the kind of thing you only see in the movies … or in small towns.”
He added that he can’t wait to get in the tank to start working on his health, lose some weight and live,
“instead of sitting here watching the world go by.”