Communities

Veterans Day – A Day of Remembrance

CANTREL AND HIS COMRADES DURING THIS YEAR’S STAND DOWN EVENT. Photo provided

Loranian, Michael Cantrell, served as a U.S. Marine in the Vietnam War from 1966 until 1969 and participated in the Tet Offensive of 1968. Like all war time experiences, it was a time that few men want to talk about and relive. Many came home scarred and damaged from all they had seen and done. Many had demons to slay, and Mike was no exception. When he returned home, it was to a less-than-warm reception from his own countrymen.
Since Mike was discharged in 1969, he has dedicated his life in trying to help heal or, at least, lessen the impact of those scars that are borne by Vietnam vets still.
Early on, in 1972, Mike worked with the Long Beach, California Veterans hospital by helping with ”bed rolling,” physically changing the positions of bedridden patients to alleviate pressure points that cause sores. He worked tirelessly in whatever other capacity he was needed with amputees, quadriplegics, paraplegics and others forgotten by society – sometimes by just sitting with them and offering his caring and compassion.
In 1981, he became involved in hunger strikes to demand increased psychiatric care by hospitals run by the Department of Veteran Affairs and investigations into the effects of Agent Orange on vets.
He’s also been involved in efforts to bring our Prisoners Of War and Missing In Action home, whose families of so many men need closure.
To this day, he’s been helping to provide Christmas gifts and warm clothing for homeless vets who have never been able to find their way back to family and a productive life. He began doing all of this when it wasn’t ”cool” to be a veteran.
He’s long been involved in the ”Stand Down” for the homeless vets. In military terms, a stand down is the time after a battle when troops stop fighting and can rest and relax in order to replenish themselves. Today, giving stand downs to the homeless veterans means providing them with hot meals, warm clothing, a bed and sometimes a job. They are offered the chance to renew their lives and become a viable part of society.
Currently, Cantrell is a member of Vet Net as part of their suicide prevention program. He is the Oregon state representative for Operation Zero, which focuses on that goal. According to Mike, an average of 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
He has also taken on the veteran program chairmanship for the Lane County Grange and is the District 2 chairman for a six-county grange veterans program encompassing Benton, Lane, Linn, Lincoln, Marion and Polk counties.
In addition to all of the above, Mike is now looking into the Veterans Legacy Oregon project that is now headquartered at Camp Alma on the site of the former Lane County Work Camp to see if his services are needed there.
Mike Cantrell sums up his life’s experience as a veteran: ”My life was totally changed by the war. I totally feel empathy and compassion for all veterans, especially those who were a part of the Vietnam War. Sometimes I feel embarrassed as an American because of the way we were all treated by our fellow Americans, but I am totally a patriot of our country, and would put my life on the line for it and our veterans.”
Cantrell exemplifies the word ”veteran” and is a man of honor in every sense. His compassion and drive to help those who cannot help themselves is something we can all learn from.
Thank you for your service, Michael Cantrell!