‘Dead man’ talking

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 22, 2005

MARION – He is a veteran. He was pronounced dead. He had to fight to get his benefits and money back because they said he was dead. Now, he fights and protests, by himself, to promote awareness of the way the government treats veterans and troops.

Although John Evans is only one man, he has taken it as his personal duty to visit each state capital to inform people of the mistreatments he believes some vets and current troops face.

Although Montgomery is the capital of Alabama, Evans will begin his tour in the city where he was born – Marion, Ala.

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“I am doing this for the veterans and the troops overseas,” Evans said. “They are being highly mistreated and I want to try to make it better.”

According to Evans, troops were initially sent overseas without proper equipment and he has witnessed first hand the mistreatment of vets.

When Evans came back from Vietnam in 1971 he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and placed on disability.

In 1994, he was pronounced dead his disability checks were discontinued and he couldn’t get a loan from the bank. His life had stopped as his heart almost did when he suffered a heart attack September 7.

With $70,000 in hospital bills Evans said the Veterans Administration should handle the costs since they are responsible for the stress he suffered which led to his heart attack.

He fought the VA in the courts but the case was eventually dismissed.

Now, Evans spends his days protesting the mistreatment of vets and troops in front of the White House and will begin his nation-wide tour Friday.

He and some invited guests will speak for the veterans and troops at Marion Baptist Academy, 315 Centerville Street, from 6:30 – 10 p.m.

“I will take what comes out of the meeting back to the White House,” he said. “It will be all over. I will e-mail it to Bush, the vice president and congress.”

Definite speakers at the event will be Marion residents, Rev. Larry Jackson, Richard Smith, Rev. Lee Wallace, Samuel Dunkin and Commissioner Albert Turner, Jr.

Evans said he is awaiting a reply from the mayor and police chief.

He plans to complete his tour in about two years and said he wants all the tour speakers to gather in Washington, D.C. once his travels are concluded.

But for now, Evans focus is to advise families on how to cope with a loved one who has been over seas and may return with PTSD or any other stress related illnesses.

He also wants to encourage people to contact congress about issues and to know something about government officials before they vote.

“We as the people are the government, but they have control,” Evans said. “I am trying to give the government back to the people.”

Evans said he will fund his trip on his own until he can’t anymore and will then accept donations because he doesn’t want people to think he is using them.

He also said he prefers to protest alone because he doesn’t have to worry about his self causing a scene and doesn’t want to have to worry about anyone else “acting a fool.”

But with all the independent acts aside, Evans has the best interests of his colleagues in his mind and heart.

“I was highly mistreated and I don’t want to see no one treated like I was,” Evans said. “I want to help stop it.”

Please visit www.forgottenvets.com for more information on Evans and his tour.