Dave Mapp volunteered to join the U.S. Marine Corps as an 18-year-old just months after the end of the Vietnam War.
Though he never saw combat during his two years of military service, he would later learn just what he sacrificed for his country.
Mapp was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., from late 1975 through the summer of 1977, right in the middle of a 30-year period during which the base was found to have contaminated water. The contamination increased the risk of cancer and other serious conditions in service members, contractors and family members who lived at the base.
In 2014, Mapp was diagnosed with leukemia and given one year to 18 months to live. Now 66, Mapp is in remission, thanks to Imbruvica medication that costs $7,000 per month. His compensation from the government covers the cost of that vital medication.
“I’m one of the lucky ones. I get my complete healthcare from the VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs),” Mapp said.
Still, the St. Petersburg resident said he does not regret his military service. The illness is simply the “price for serving my country.”
Mapp told his story earlier this month as part of Empath Health’s Black Veterans History Project. Empath Honors, Empath’s program dedicated to caring for and honoring the service of veterans, conducted a Veterans History Project specifically for African American service members during Black History Month.
Empath has participated in the national Veterans History Project since 2012. The project collects first-hand accounts of veterans’ military experiences for future generations. Specially-trained volunteers and staff conduct video or audio interviews of veterans. The recordings are then submitted and archived in the Library of Congress. Participants receive a copy of their interview, a certificate of participation and a record of where their stories are archived.
Mapp, now retired after a 40-year career as a therapist specializing in career development and behavioral health, said it was an honor to participate in the project.
“I felt humbled. For me, I didn’t find anything particularly special or spectacular about it. I volunteered to serve my country, and it was a job,” Mapp said. “To know that anybody can look or listen 40-50 years from now and maybe get something out of it, I feel like I’ve done a really big community service. It felt good to be a part of that.”
The Veterans History Project is just one part of Empath Honors services available to veterans in Pinellas County. Suncoast Hospice, a member of Empath Health, is a Level Five Partner of the We Honor Veterans program, an initiative of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). This commitment to gratefully acknowledge the veterans we serve extends throughout all areas of Empath Health, under the Empath Honors initiative.
Empath Honors also offers military service recognition ceremonies and works with Honor Flight to bring veterans to their memorials in Washington, D.C. free of charge. The program sponsors Veterans Coffee Connections and Veteran Briefings to give former service members a social outlet and a chance to learn more about benefits available from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In November, Empath opened the new Auer Szabo Empath Adult Day Center to focus on the psychosocial and recreational needs of veterans and keep them healthy at home.
“This is how Empath Health and Suncoast Hospice honor and recognize and support veterans in the community,” Empath Veterans Community Partnership Liaison Trudy Beeler said. “It’s connecting veterans to each other and to resources and services they don’t know about or they don’t know how to access. We’ve been very successful at doing that.”
To learn more about Empath Honors and to inquire about participating in the Veterans History Project, visit EmpathHonors.org.