Among the hundreds of people visiting the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City on Monday was Deborah Powell French.
She strolled along the road outside the chapel where bagpipers played “God Bless America” and “Amazing Grace.”
The retired Helen Jydstrup Elementary School principal was visiting the grave of Daniel Powell, her former husband.
Deborah said she comes to the Boulder City cemetery every year for the couple’s daughter, Daviera, who lives in Florida.
Deborah paused. She covered her eyes and gently sobbed.
“I feel badly for my daughter because she never got to see the best of him,” she said.
Daniel Powell’s story was far different than the ones told by the governor, U.S. senators and members of Congress at the Memorial Day event when they eulogized those who died serving their country.
It was all too familiar to veterans, however.
It’s a story of not being able to cope.
It’s a story of emotional and psychological problems.
It’s a story that leads to drug abuse and ultimately death.
After four years in the Air Force, between 1968 and 1972, including a stint in the Vietnam War, Daniel Powell came home and married French.
They stayed married for 18 years.
“He was a good person in a bad fix,” said Deborah, now 47. “He had a very hard time coping.”
She described how Daniel had turned to crack cocaine. He tried to fight it, she said. He was in and out of VA clinics but he never could get the right support, she said.
Inside the chapel hundreds gathered for an hours-long ceremony that included speeches from Gov. Brian Sandoval, U.S. Sens. Harry Reid and Dean Heller, and Reps. Shelley Berkley, Joe Heck and Mark Amodei.
The chapel overflowed with veterans and family members. Video monitors showed the politicians’ speeches.
Reid said it was the nation’s “highest fiscal priority” to care for those military veterans who return home wounded in some way. He received enthusiastic applause.
Outside the chapel a boy in camouflage shorts and a T-shirt played with green plastic soldiers, seemingly oblivious to the pomp and circumstance.
As Deborah strolled along the road, the miniature U.S. flags uniformly dotting each flat headstone swayed with a hot May breeze.
Victor French, Deborah’s husband of a year, wrapped his arm around her as she wiped away tears.
Deborah said she noticed the new faces now visiting the cemetery. As its grave population grows beyond 23,000, Deborah hoped that the government officials who ask the military to go to war don’t forget them when they come home.
“I just hope there is support for families, especially the kids. Because they (the veterans) do come back so different,” she said.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039.