Hero Chronicles: The Home of Clyde Kment

VeteransThis post is a part of the Hero Chronicles Series, highlighting U.S. military Veterans and their families served by the Home Depot Foundation’s “Celebration of Service.” Over 200 Veterans homes and facilities are being repaired and upgraded in the two-month campaign, which will conclude on Veterans Day.

A spry 71 year-old Clyde Kment looked as if he was ready to jump up and go for a jog. He sat on the edge of the bed in his Vancouver, Washington home wearing a sweat suit, and leaning casually on one arm. He was laughing as his wife Fuji, in broken Japanese-English, explained that he would weave quite a tale if only I stuck around long enough. With 20 years in the U.S. Army, six out of six brothers who joined the military, a father who served in both the Army Air Corps and the Infantry through World War II, and his own sweet tale of the beautiful Japanese girl he met during an overseas tour in the early 60′s, he had plenty of story to tell. “She was the only one who could beat me in ping-pong” he explained, as they both chuckled like fifty years together had passed in an instant. It was wonderful after traveling the country to interview Veterans for Home Depot to meet such a robust servicemember right here in my own hometown.

But Clyde’s tone changed when he got to 1968. After sending his wife and two daughters to live in Japan, he arrived in the Central Highlands of Vietnam just two days into the Tet Offensive. As a young man with very little military service behind him and no combat experience, he told me he saw more dead bodies in his first 48 hours than he saw the rest of his time in country. “I don’t talk much about my time there” he pointed out. “But I’ll tell you this much – I couldn’t stand violence after that. I couldn’t even go to a boxing match after I came home. It changed me.”

Clyde, who retired as a Master Sergeant, told me about how he spent most of his time after that as an Army recruiter based in the Pacific Northwest, and I could see how perfectly he was situated for the job. He explained that in those days the job was part public affairs, part compassion, and part story-telling. He clearly still had all those skills intact, despite his recent diagnosis.

A few short months ago Clyde was walking around his house, up and down the stairs, wondering why his back hurt. He was working out every day, running and even pumping iron for an hour at a time, but his muscles still felt as if they were weakening. He was an avid gardener with a manicured lawn and perfectly pruned trees heavy with buds, but he could no longer lift his arms high enough to tend them. After a barrage of tests, doctors finally identified the cause of his problems: ALS, also known as Lou Gherig’s Disease. In just four weeks time he had lost the ability to walk on his own. “I didn’t know it until I got the disease, but Veterans are actually twice as likely to get ALS,” he explained.

He couldn’t walk around his property to see the improvements being made by the Home Depot volunteers that day without the aid of the walker and leg brace sitting at the end of the bed. But that didn’t stop him. He ventured out to say thank you, to instruct volunteers about the quirks of starting his mower, and to explain how to transplant an enormous bamboo plant into the perfect pot. You got the feeling he’d rather be out there, working alongside them. Still, he didn’t want the spotlight to be on him. Kment maintained, as do most of the servicemembers I talk to, that there was nothing about him that made him a hero. “The real heroes are these guys here – the ones doing this work. This story is really about them.”

Flanked by his wife, Fuji, and the ALS of Oregon Director, Clyde Kment looks on in amazement at the progress made by volunteers at his Vancouver, Washington home.

On Wednesday over 150 Home Depot area employees were at the homes of four area Veterans, volunteering on their day off, as a part of their Foundation’s “Celebration of Service” campaign. At Kment’s home they would make his gardens immaculate, widen doorways so that he could get through them with a walker or wheelchair, add pavers to the gravel driveway, make his bathroom accessible, and construct a wheelchair ramp that would give him access to the main floor of his house. “It’s more than I could ever have imagined,” Kment said with overwhelming gratitude.

Area ALS Executive Director Lance Christian explained how quickly the disease strikes and how timely the Home Depot Foundation’s offer to make the home more accessible really was. “we’re so glad that Home Depot contacted the ALS Association for Oregon and Southwest Washington. We have so many Veterans that are in need, and  they’re often unable to get the services as quickly as they’re required.” According to the ALS website, the average patient lives only 2-5 years after diagnosis though some can live with the disease for much longer. For Clyde and Fuji, that makes every moment precious.

The couple lingered very near each other in the sunlight that afternoon, watching the sea of orange shirts transform their yard into its previous glory. “This is 99% about them, and only 1% about him,” Fuji said as she put a hand on her husband’s shoulder. He kept his gaze on the garden, not turning around in that moment, but quietly nodding in agreement.

I said my goodbyes and thanked the employees I met who would keep working long into the afternoon. I turned to look at the progress that had been made since my arrival, and like a flash from 1962 I saw a young infantryman and his beautiful Japanese bride, the house where they raised two girls, and a lifetime of service.

Through it all, Clyde and Fuji remain optimistic and thankful. “What they’re doing here today is phenomenal,” said Kment, “Words cannot describe what I’m seeing!”

*

For more information about the Home Depot’s Celebration of Service, click here.

For more information about the ALS Association, click here.

To leave your comments of support for Clyde and Fuji, comment here.

About these ads

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Irene Guzme
    Aug 06, 2013 @ 21:24:45

    My Cousin Clyde was a Great Son, Father,Husband and Relative. He loved life and
    always showed this with his attitude towards everyone. He was like Mother
    Teresa in life; helping others . He was a very Proud American Veteran. He did not want to leave his family behind at all.
    He was strong and wanted to learn everything
    about ALS to help others. May he rest in peace and we will continue to
    continue to help ALS causes thru his brother Claudio Kment.
    Cousin Irene Tamez Gonzales Guzme/ Texas

    Reply

  2. Claude D Kment
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 15:41:45

    I’m Claude, Clyde’s next eldest brother. Not a day has passed since he departed I have either smiled or cried…difficult. He kept me sane, he and brother Joe (Bud) donated some of the winter weeks in Ajo Az refurbishing donated PC’s for the local school. He would call me in the evening afterwards describing some of the process.
    Clyde could solve in a flash all sorts of problems regardless of type. There isn’t another to go to nowdays with a correct answer not even google. Thanks Home Depot, Our favorite..miss the days Clyde would call me from an isle describing a product I could possibly use to resolve an issue or two. And thanks Lori for your efforts. My cuz Irene Guzme and Eloy are attempting to provide some special safe ALS treatment off shore since the FDA is unwilling to do anything for the nearly 6,000 US patients. Unlike HD, the only thing that matters to them is power and money…sad.Even my Dr. Filer who lost his dad to ALS wondered how and why it is the FDA has the power to grant or not grant treatment to a citizen with a terminal illness. Our Gov gave them this power and it should immediately take it away…each day more than 5 wonderful ALS citizens die without hope, and 5 to 6 more are diagnosed daily with a life of from 6 months to 5 years. My brother Clyde far far to quickly … 7 months,
    And lastly thank the home Volunteers, Clyde told me they did a heck of a good job and so very quickly too. Claude

    Reply

  3. Lois Roth Poblitz (Kment)
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 10:05:00

    Uncle BooBoo… you were a hero and always will be! Your wisdom and compassion will be sorely missed. Love to Fuji, you are in my prayers.

    Reply

  4. Lucille
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 13:28:51

    Dear Clyde ,Fuji and Girls, Please over look all the mistakes in my first note,. the bus was outside the gate honking its head off and I accidental hit the send button before I proof read it . I just want all of you to know you are in my prayers and I pray every day that God will give all of you the strength for endurance . Again I send this with love Lucille.

    Reply

  5. Lucille
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 07:52:00

    Hi Clyde. Out side of your Brother I’ve met a nicer person . You are so very concerned about people you can help. I only wish I’d had the pleasure of meeting your wife . . She has to be a wonderful person also.
    I appreciate all you did for me. What a remarkable person you are along side of you graceful wife.
    Thank you for the ham radio.Say hello toi your wide and daughters for me. With love Lucille

    Reply

  6. Trackback: www.wittylittlesecret.com
  7. Claudette Walker
    Oct 20, 2012 @ 17:43:31

    Thank you for the story. Would like to share with friends & relatives but don’t find a way to share. Can you help? Home depot did a great job & know the Kments are most grateful for everything thing they did. Clyde is my brother & this disease came as a real shock……as he always exercised, took good care with healthy habits. We must all be grateful for each day……and live each day to the fullest.
    Thanks again to you for a Job well done!

    Reply

  8. Sue Kment
    Oct 05, 2012 @ 23:52:36

    Thanks for writing this touching article about “Uncle Clyde”.

    Reply

  9. John Erickson
    Oct 05, 2012 @ 18:16:25

    I can’t help but wonder what some of the causes of Mr. Kment’s ALS might be. I’ve seen Vietnam vets die from cancers caused by Agent Orange, Gulf War 1 vets suffering from the oil well fires, and current Gulf War vets from possible DU exposure and PTSD/TBI. I wonder what the future will look like in another few decades for these brave fighting men and women?
    Sorry to sound so negative on such a positive post. It’s great to hear of Home Depot’s work, and the great work of the volunteers in taking care of the Kments. And I wish the Kments all the best in the days and years to come. And thank YOU, for bringing these stories to light.

    Reply

  10. Bekkijo
    Oct 05, 2012 @ 09:48:55

    Once again you made me cry, in a good way. Thank you for telling these stories and bringing these people into our lives. Though they’ve been there the whole time and defended our story, our country and others, without you they would always remain nameless, faceless strangers.
    Thank you to you and a huge thank you to them!

    Reply

  11. The Dad
    Oct 05, 2012 @ 07:08:46

    That’s who we are. We are a nation of people who serve something greater than ourselves. Clyde served something greater than himself through years of dedication to the nation. Home Depot is serving something greater than its “corporate self” through the donation of materials for these projects and their employees are serving something greater than themselves by donating their own precious time-off to do something for these vets. And you, Lori, are serving a cause much greater than yourself by taking time away from your own family to make the rest of us aware of these events. Thank you for making the nation aware. I love you, princess, and keep on doing what you’re doing! That’s who YOU are.

    Reply

Come on ... I know you wanna say something. Go for it.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

VOTY Reader