- Associated Press - Friday, July 10, 2015

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Stars and stripes decorated Jerry Josephson’s big blue house as an American flag ruffled in the breeze.

From the sprawling front porch, Josephson, 68, waved to a passing car as a nearby Uncle Sam windsock gently twirled, The Hutchinson News (https://bit.ly/1TciCaE ) reported.

Josephson and his wife, Vicki, spend their free time on the porch, which is decorated with patriotic bunting and twinkling lights. It’s where they visit with friends, and he even offers an occasional haircut to a special pal.

These days, he appreciates it whenever the outside world comes calling. He’s recovering at home after amputation of his right leg at the hip in February. Since 1998 he has battled a soft-tissue sarcoma caused, he said, by exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. He is listed on the Agent Orange registry and is 100 percent disabled, with all medical costs covered by the Veterans Administration.

Now, after spending 46 years standing in his South Hutchinson barbershop, Josephson misses his customers, especially the daily conversations and camaraderie he found while cutting hair.

“I’m not whining and complaining,” he said. “I’m thankful.”

Josephson is thankful for his family and friends who have stood by his side. He’s grateful for the medical care he received. And he appreciates that the VA is covering the medical expenses. There have been more than 20 surgeries to endure since the original diagnosis. This most recent surgery cost about $100,000. Expenses like that could put Josephson over a financial cliff.

He is currently waiting for a special prosthetic leg that will be attached at his waist. The computerized leg looks like something out of “Star Wars,” he said, and costs $80,000.

“I’m just one of a million amputees,” said Josephson. “I never knew how hard it could be to adjust. It keeps you busy just going to the bathroom. Friends put bars in to help.”

He hopes people give any amputee, or any person using a wheelchair, a helping hand. People have reached out to help him - family, friends, neighbors, even strangers. He said he doesn’t want pity, just empathy.

The past five months have been a learning experience. Josephson admitted that when he and Vicki first came home from the hospital, he worried how he would get into the house. However, when they pulled up in front, he saw that a group of friends had built a ramp for him.

Josephson has lived in the area all his life.

During his four years at Nickerson High School, his football team lost only three games. Those were good times back in the early 1960s. Vicki was his sweetheart when he graduated in 1965. However, three months later he was drafted and sent to Vietnam. He asked her to wait for him.

“I was no hero,” he said, downplaying his role in the war. He unloaded ships and delivered the supplies to camps. “Guys in the field had it worse. I admired those infantry guys out there. I had it made compared to them.”

He was involved in the Tet Offensive in early 1968. But by April he was back in Hutchinson, and he and Vicki married “for better or worse, in sickness and in health.” Following Vietnam, he decided to go to barber school in Wichita.

“I had an uncle who was a barber and he always drove nice cars, and I thought, ‘Shoot, I’ll be a barber,’ ” Josephson said.

He fell in love with the profession. He still owns Jerry’s Barber Styling in South Hutchinson and lives with the hope of returning once he adjusts to the prosthesis. For now, the shop is being run by his good friend James Mullins, a longtime Hutchinson barber. Josephson apprenticed under Mullins at Larkland Barbershop back in 1969.

“I just love him,” Josephson said of Mullins.

At 81, Mullins offered to keep the shop open on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings. He wanted to help Josephson because he’s a Vietnam veteran.

Ryan Boggs, who came into the shop on a recent afternoon to get his hair trimmed, said Josephson “always had a good story to tell.”

Mullins believes Josephson was one of two top barbers in town. (The other man has died.) Mullins plans to keep the shop open until Josephson returns. Although Josephson knows it will be a challenge using the prosthetic, if anyone can handle the challenge, it’s him.

“Jerry’s one of the toughest individuals I’ve ever known,” Mullins said. “I thought I was tough, but he’s tougher.”

Since February, the little things have meant a lot: talks with friends on the porch, weekly visits to the VFW.

“The guys at the VFW treat me like a king,” Josephson said. When they know he has arrived, they come out and help him into the building. “We have fun. We don’t tell war stories, we’re just comrades.”

Adjusting to life as an amputee has its challenges. Like the time he went for a drive in his pickup truck and couldn’t get back into the wheelchair when he returned home. He figured he was stuck in the truck until Vicki got off work six hours later, but at that moment a stranger walked up to offer a hand.

Then there are phantom pains that often make for sleepless nights. But, by early morning, before the neighborhood has stirred, he’ll move out on the porch.

That’s where Josephson will wait for the day to slowly unfold.

___

Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, https://www.hutchnews.com


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide