Veterans agent stands tall for town

David C. Rodgers was an enlisted radioman in the US Navy who fought during the Vietnam war from 1969 until 1973 and has served Marblehead veterans for 23 years as town veterans agent.

“My job is unique. Everything here is confidential, personal based. Sometimes I try to offer some guidance, and sometimes they just want to talk, and I just try to be a good listener,” said Rodgers. 

Rodgers deployed to Southeast Asia and spent two years on a ship. After his service, Rodgers came back to his hometown Marblehead and focused on fishing for groundfish. 

In 1999, Rodgers took on the responsibility as Marblehead’s veterans’ agent and found his job to be very rewarding. Rodgers’ job consists of assisting local veterans with filling for health care and disability claims among other gratifying tasks.

Rodgers said services veterans can receive from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts include educational benefits and offering disabled veterans who have a 10 percent or above rating at Veterans Affairs (VA) at least $400 off their property tax.

He also makes veterans aware of state law programs like Chapter 115, which not every veteran qualifies for but is another benefit Massachusetts offers for veterans who can’t afford a burial or any veteran with an honorable discharge, that is not on active duty, can be buried in a national cemetery.

When Rodgers left the service in 1973, the VA didn’t have a good reputation based on the services they provided to the wounded.

“If you got hurt or exposed to things like agent orange in Vietnam the government went into somewhat of denial and the VA didn’t have a very good reputation, but I was pleasantly surprised when I got this job that the VA health care system was very good. They made a lot of improvements and I think today the government is finally trying to do their part to take care of those with disabilities or who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They are trying, nothing is perfect!” added Rodgers. 

Veterans mental health has become a topic of interest and Rodgers agrees it is a real problem.

“With veterans coming home and not only from Korea and Vietnam but the present conflicts we have, they are in a lot of need of councilors to try to help these guys get back on their feet and it’s real it’s a real problem and I think we can do a better job, but we are doing a better job than the 1960s and 1970s,” said Rodgers. 

Contrary to the efforts made with mental health, Rodgers believes that the 20th century was the greatest generation.

“I was born in 1949 but I still feel that World War II veterans and that generation as a group really were the greatest generation, in the 20th century, in my lifetime! because everybody served, and everybody wanted to serve. There were hardships at home from families that left as there still are when anybody serves but they all put their best efforts forward when they came home and try to go on with their lives and come back to society. I think that generation of Americans taught manners, respect, and opening the door for a lady. Just something that really fallen by the wayside,” said Rodgers. 

“When you look back 40, 50 years later. I think everyone is proud of their service,” he added. 

No matter the generation, Rodgers still agrees that veterans made a difference to the country, “All veterans no matter what they did. In peacetime or wartime, anytime! They signed a blank check to our country to serve for a certain amount of time and sometimes during the war their days were extended, especially during World War II but no matter what you did, you should be proud of your service to the country. You took an oath to your country. That meant something,” added Rodgers with certainty. 

Veterans Day, Rodgers said, is a time of celebration for those who have served the country, and “for remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice and also those that aren’t with us anymore,” said Rodgers. 

Along with the organization, Veterans of Foreign Wars Rodgers undertakes graveside services for veterans at a local level. Which according to Rodgers, is also a very rewarding position.

Rodgers, 73, has two sons, Joseph born in 1991, and Carl born in 1987, who also enlisted in the Navy and are living gratifying lives.