John J. Pershing VA Medical Center
“The best thing that’s ever happened to me"
Harry Eichler celebrated his 89th birthday in early March, but he still has plenty of memories that turn into stories for the interested listener.
Like the time he met Dick Clark when hospitalized for a tonsillectomy as a thirty-something year-old man. Or the time a three-star general stopped by his post and engaged enlisted man, Eichler in conversation. Or better yet – the time he was in an automobile accident in Paris (while stationed in Germany)… and it turned out that General Charles de Gaulle was the other car’s occupant.
A child of a World War I Veteran, Eichler attended the Scotland School for Veterans’ Children in Pennsylvania as a youngster, which he likens to a military school. “After everything I learned in that school, the Army was a cakewalk,” Eichler says. Drafted in 1950 during the Korean War, Eichler was stationed at Ft. Bragg before he was sent to Germany, “after a week or two of training in German.” To this day, Eichler can still speak the language.
In the military, Eichler edited aerial photographs taken by the United States Air Force, but after his discharge, he became a machinist, making bullpup missiles in Philadelphia, and jet engine parts in Johnstown. In 1965, at the age of 37, Eichler married a woman from the Missouri Bootheel, and following a serious automobile accident in Pennsylvania, the couple decided to move to Missouri.
Eichler held a number of jobs ranging from café owner to McDonnell-Douglas factory worker, to earth moving business owner. He retired from the Madison County Roads and Bridges crew after 16 years of service, and opened a lawn care business. “I took care of 115 yards one summer,” he recalls.
Even with all of these experiences, Eichler talks about his VA health care as a highlight. “It’s working out great,” he says of his care. “People should use the VA – they take care of you; you get really good care. I’d highly recommend it, and it’s saved me a lot of money.”
Eichler tells a story about help he received from his VA home health care nurse, Marty Lynch, on one cold, winter day. “I had a stove, but it went out on me,” he says. Lynch showed up for a routine visit, and Eichler answered the door wearing coveralls and gloves he had slept in the night before. “I instantly knew there was a problem,” Lynch says. “The next thing I knew, she got me a trailer load of wood for my stove,” Eichler continues. “Then two men from the Elks came out here and put in a new gas stove.” After ordering the wood to meet Eichler’s immediate need, Lynch asked a colleague to reach out to the Fredericktown Elks Lodge, who generously supplied and installed the new stove.
Eichler is grateful for Lynch’s care. “She was an angel in disguise,” he says of that day. “Some people talk, and some people do. Marty is a doer.”
For example, due to his income, Eichler is eligible to receive the ingredients for a holiday dinner through the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center’s “Care and Share” program. However, he explains, he did not know how to cook the ham that came with the package. “Marty cooked it up and she put it in small containers so it wouldn’t go to waste,” he says. “I’m still eating it but it’s nearly gone.”
Lynch also sets up Eichler’s medications, draws his labs, and assesses his health status regularly. “My days consist of bills, pills, meals and mail,” Eichler says, jokingly.
“I’m forever grateful for Marty,” Eichler says. “She saved my life from misery and has helped me in so many ways.” Recalling the day his home was once again heated, he says, “That was the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life.”