(WIVB) — A family in Western New York is looking for answers after they say the VA Medical Center threw out a late Vietnam veteran’s personal belongings. He was a decorated war veteran who died at the VA, but when his family went to collect his things, VA officials said they were thrown out.
Phil Yockey fought in Vietnam and would eventually learn his own government had poisoned him with the defoliant known as “Agent Orange.” Phil was in the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs when he died and now his family has little more than memories to show for a life of service.
U.S. Army Sgt. Philip Yockey was among the millions of young men who fought an enemy on the ground, disrespectful Americans when he returned and his own government which poisoned him and an estimated 2 million other GIs with Agent Orange.
Over the years, the war took a toll on Phil. “First off, about 10 years of service, two legs, a finger, his heart problems, his diabetes,” said widow Charlene Yockey.
But for some reason, Phil didn’t get the decorations he deserved, and it took Congressman Brian Higgins to get those for him, two years ago and even then Yockey said it was for his brothers-in-arms.
At the time, Yockey said, “and I am hoping it gets a lot of people more coverage than just myself.”
Phil spent most of his final years in the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. But when he died in November, most of his belongings had been left behind at the VA in Batavia. A supervisor contacted a worker at the Buffalo VA when asked about Yockey’s personal effects, “And told her call Mrs. Yockey and tell her the stuff was all thrown out,” according to Charlene.
A spokesperson for the VA said, “any time a veteran or family member has a concern, we reach out to them directly, just as we have done with the family in this instance.”
Charlene and her daughter now have Phil’s ashes, but say that they miss his hat the most. “He loved that hat,” Charlene said. “He had it for many years. Everyone knew him by that.”
“I got an urn for his remains, and I was going to put the hat with it as a little memorial thing to him, because his hat had all of his pins on it from being in Vietnam,” said Nicole.
The Yockeys have filed a claim with the VA, but they are asking how to put a price on your loved one’s belongings after they are gone?