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A sad milestone for the county

On Jan. 14, the Chautauqua County Health Department announced the 47th death from COVID-19 in the county. In the entire Vietnam War, there were 46 from our county who died. COVID-19 has now claimed more lives here in less than a year than did the Vietnam War.

There are, of course, differences. In Vietnam soldiers were killed by bullets and shrapnel from rockets and mortars. COVID deaths are caused by a lethal virus. The average age of Chautauqua County veterans killed during the Vietnam War was 21. The great bulk of deaths today from COVID are people over the age of 65. The elderly are carrying the brunt of this war.

One similarity between what is happening today and what happened in Vietnam is that the enemy is largely hidden. In Vietnam, we often did not know who the enemy was.

It was a guerilla war and peaceful places in the daytime could turn into killing fields at night. COVID is also largely hidden and is insidious in the way it can pass from one person to another. The only effective way to fight it, is to presume that anyone can become a carrier … even those who are family or friends.

Perhaps the greatest difference I have noticed in how people are dying, is that in Vietnam those wounded and dying were usually surrounded by their buddies who could help bind up their wounds and give comfort to them. In the case of COVID, many people are dying alone, in hospitals and nursing homes where family and friends have little or no ability to be present.

A friend of mine recently told me that he hasn’t been able to see his wife, who is in a nursing home, since March. Thankfully, she has not contracted COVID. Yet, he can see her only through the window and speak with her on his phone. They haven’t been together in person for 10 months. That is really tough. To keep her safe, access to the nursing home must be restricted.

As we get older, we begin to accept our mortality. Yes, we are elderly and eventually are going to die from something. As the song from Joe Diffie, who died last year, goes: “I ain’t afraid of dying, it’s the thought of being dead…” which worried him.

But, there is more to it than that with COVID. It is the idea and the fear of dying alone which I think most concerns people my age. That is why we want to get vaccinated. Let us get back to a normal life where we can live and die with our friends and family around us.

In Vietnam, we were young and thought we were bullet-proof. When a friend was killed, we got through it, were thankful that the bullet or shrapnel had missed us and lived with the hope that within a certain number of days or weeks we would be headed home.

With COVID, now that we are older, we know that we are not bullet-proof and that our lives have been largely lived. Yet, we hope to help stop the pandemic. We want to take a vaccine to protect ourselves and help bring this crisis to an end. Then we will continue the fight until this virus has been defeated in our country, community and the world.

Rolland Kidder, a Vietnam veteran, is a Stow resident.

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