Every year on the fourth day of July, Americans throughout the country celebrate the birth of their country’s independence.
For some, the holiday means festivities such as fireworks, parades, family gatherings and barbecues. For others, the day carries much more weight.
On Feb. 18, 2022, Horizon West lost one of its many veterans, Philip Irvin Trover, to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Although Trover died from a lung disease, he never smoked a day in his life. His family believes the disease was an effect of Agent Orange, a herbicide and defoliant chemical used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War.
HONORING PHILIP TROVER
Trover was born on June 7, 1948, in Malden, Missouri, although he spent most of his childhood and young adult years in St. Louis.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army in the fall of 1969, where he trained as an infantryman and mortarman.
After basic and advanced infantry training, where he was stationed in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he was sent to South Vietnam in February 1970 and returned home in January 1971. He was then stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, for the remainder of his two-year tour.
Trover’s wife, Sue, and daughter, Kelly DiGiovanni, said although it took many years, Philip Trover eventually shared some of what he had been through.
Then, about 40 more years later, he was contacted by a veteran he had served with in Vietnam.
Together, they started searching for others who had served with them.
Soon, they were able to gather together with their wives in Florida, where they stayed in a large vacation home together and spent four days just talking and catching up.
“It was such an emotional time of healing for all of them,” Sue Trover said. “But some wounds had to be reopened in order for any of them to heal from it, and we knew and felt that that first gathering was the beginning of a lot of necessary healing for all of them. I truly believe that they created an even stronger bond that week, then they did in the jungle fighting a war.”
Since then, Sue Trover said the group met about every two years to continue the healing and renewing the bond. When they gathered, they spent every minute talking and sharing memories — reminiscing over the trauma of what had happened.
“Phil truly wanted to encourage … especially warzone soldiers … to search and find those that they had served with in order for them to do the same thing, and work toward a necessary healing,” Sue Trover said.
The family said three of Philip’s 22nd Regiment Vietnam Veteran forever friends, traveled across the country from different states to attend his funeral.
“They each spoke at the service, and our family was so very blessed by the deep love and respect that they gave Phil,” Sue Trover said. “It truly was a beautiful moment.”
Their whole family is thankful for the assistance and honor local veteran groups gave to Philip Trover upon his passing.
“We will always remember the kindness and countless expressions of concern and love from people we did not personally know, who took it upon themselves to show such compassion during such a difficult time,” the family shared. “Philip was a loving, patriotic and (a) God-fearing soul who would have given anything for his family and friends.”
The Trover family is part of the Horizon West Veterans group, which was created by resident and veteran Casey Brown in February 2021. It has more than 150 members.
Horizon West resident Andrew Brown served as a fleet marine force corpsman in the U.S. Navy.
He was born into a large military family and said when he was only 5 or 6 years old, he remembers being at his great-grandparent’s house. He was there when his great-grandmother picked flakes of shrapnel from his great-grandfather’s skin — leftovers popping up from when he was torpedoed in the Navy during World War II.
During his service, Brown performed paramedical skills, basic life support, minor surgical procedure, and other routine and emergency medical health care procedures.
“It was a very difficult time,” Brown said. “It’s not if you get hit; it’s when and how hard. You’re camping in the middle of the desert in southern Afghanistan during the summer with a big American flag over your tent, and your job is to just get up every day and go pick a fight with somebody. If you’ve never seen a human in war and what they’re capable of doing to each other, it’s very astonishing to see what people are willing to do to other humans that they’ve never met before.”
Although it was a difficult time, Brown also remembers his deployment as one of the best years of his life.
“It was such a bare bones, simple way to live,” he said. “You get up, eat, get ready, don’t die and then go to sleep. There’s nothing else; there’s nothing complicated.”
One of the highlights of his services was when he was interviewed and selected to be part of the White House Medical Unit, through which he helped provide medical care to the president, vice president, their families and visitors.
Horizon West resident Mynor Medrano served in the U.S. Marine as a mortarman.
He said he felt called to serve his country since he was a kid — a feeling cemented in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
During his time serving in different sections throughout the the Anbar Province in Iraq, he said being able to have running water was one of the things he missed the most, as well as having food. He said even today, he hates strawberry Pop Tarts. That was one of the few foods available during his service, and even the smell still bothers him.
“Here, we’re like, ‘Oh it’s just running water; it’s nothing,’ but if you go to some kid in Iraq who doesn’t have running water and has to go to a river, shower or turn on a pump, or walk miles to get water, or even us, we used to use baby wipes. Having clean socks — it was just amazing to have clean socks,” Medrano said.
Although freedom is hard for Medrano to define in one sentence, he said it holds a multitude of meanings.
“It’s being able to get up in the morning and enjoy my family time without someone coming and knocking on my door … the ability to enjoy walking this earth and celebrating love without restrictions and being able to be who I am,” Medrano said.