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Rindge veteran wins annual state American Legion award

  • Dwight Whitcomb of Rindge is the 2017 state Legionnaire of the Year award recipient. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Dwight Whitcomb of Rindge is the 2017 state Legionnaire of the Year award recipient. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Dwight Whitcomb of Rindge is the 2017 state Legionnaire of the Year award recipient. Staff photo by Nicholas HandY

  • Dwight Whitcomb of Rindge is the 2017 state Legionnaire of the Year award recipient. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Dwight Whitcomb of Rindge is the 2017 state Legionnaire of the Year award recipient. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Dwight Whitcomb of Rindge is the 2017 state Legionnaire of the Year award recipient. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Dwight Whitcomb of Rindge is the 2017 state Legionnaire of the Year award recipient. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Of all of his accomplishments, Dwight Whitcomb said he is most proud of being the driving force behind the creation of the veterans memorial park in Rindge.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Of all of his accomplishments, Dwight Whitcomb said he is most proud of being the driving force behind the creation of the veterans memorial park in Rindge.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Of all of his accomplishments, Dwight Whitcomb said he is most proud of being the driving force behind the creation of the veterans memorial park in Rindge.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Of all of his accomplishments, Dwight Whitcomb said he is most proud of being the driving force behind the creation of the veterans memorial park in Rindge.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Dwight Whitcomb accepts the 2017 state Legionnaire of the Year award during a ceremony in Jaffrey in June.  Courtesy photo

  • Dwight Whitcomb accepts the 2017 state Legionnaire of the Year award during a ceremony in Jaffrey in June.  Courtesy photo



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, September 11, 2017

Nestled in the bottom drawer of Dwight Whitcomb’s filing cabinet is an eagle perched on a small wooden platform. 

The eagle – which represents an acknowledgment for decades of volunteer efforts in helping local veterans – is considered a huge honor for the 72-year-old Vietnam veteran, one that to this day, he is unsure if he deserves. 

“It’s such a high honor, and I’m sort of proud, but [looking at it] reminds me that there are other people who are perhaps better suited [to receive the award,]” said Whitcomb, after looking over at the 2017 state Legionnaire of the Year award, which he pulled from the cabinet for an interview with the Ledger-Transcript Thursday. 

“It came as a complete shock, because I didn’t even know I was nominated.”

Whitcomb, who served in the Army as a heavy equipment operator from 1963 to 1966, said he has always been driven by a strong desire to help other veterans in need, especially when it comes to helping them navigate the healthcare field. 

“I always felt it was my job,” said Whitcomb. “It’s a personal thing for me, I never want to see a veteran in dire straits.”

And while caring for all veterans, Whitcomb said he has placed a little more focus on helping Vietnam veterans like himself, as they were given “the short end of the stick” upon returning. 

Out of all of his veteran-related endeavors, Whitcomb is most proud of founding the Rindge Veterans Association and creating the Veterans Memorial Park in Rindge, which is situated near the intersection of Main Street and Payson Hill Road. 

“I got a lot of help with the memorial, but I was the driving force behind it… I still think of myself as part-owner because it’s my baby,” said Whitcomb. 

Whitcomb has also done a number of other things to help veterans, including volunteering at the White River Junction VA Medical Center in Vermont, training veterans how to use an online veterans health care resource called My HealtheVet, serving as a driver for the Disabled American Veterans for three years, eing the coordinator of a now defunct American Legion Post 11 program that transported local veterans to VA hospitals, and more. 

“Even from the hospital, he was taking phone calls to help out veterans in need,” said Richard Trempe, commander of the American Legion Post 11, one of the people who nominated Whitcomb for the award. “He’s been such a positive influence on me in my role as commander.”

Whitcomb still does everything he can to help local veterans, but does admit that a recent spate of health problems has limited his ability to perform up to the height of his capabilities. 

About six months ago, Whitcomb was confined to a wheelchair after being treated twice for spinal cancer: once in 2000 and again in 2005. Nerves and spinal damage resulting from the cancer mean Whitcomb will never walk again.

“I’ve offered up my services because I can still make phone calls and do stuff on the computer,” said Whitcomb, who has a motorized wheelchair that can be placed in a tow-behind trailer so he can still make it out of the house. Whitcomb said he should have a handicapped-accessible van in the next six months, which should increase his mobility even further. 

Whitcomb said he is also battling liver disease right now, a result of all of the cancer treatments he has received. He said many of his health problems can be attributed to his exposure to Agent Orange, a tactical herbicide used by the U.S.. military during the Vietnam War. 

“Being heavy exposed to Agent Orange resulted in one of my lungs collapsing,” said Whitcomb, who said he had to get part of his lung removed. “They haven’t connected the liver disease [to my exposure to Agent Orange], but it’s more than likely that the cancer was part of the exposure.”

Despite being limited by his health problems, Whitcomb has made the commitment to help veterans in need until his last moment. Whitcomb said he is currently working on some bylaws for the Rindge Veterans Association and trying to arrange to add some granite posts with chains to the veterans memorial. 

A few months after accepting the award, Whitcomb said the weight of his accomplishments and the honor of the award are finally starting to sink in. 

“I’m finally coming to grips with it,” said Whitcomb, who said one day he may let the eagle soar out of the filing cabinet. “This award is a biggie for me, but I will probably never think I was the only person in the state deserving of this award.”

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.