Vietnam vet continues to serve his township |
Saturday, October 20, 2012
By Annie Lynn Staff Writer
GRAHAM TOWNSHIP - Steve Condo of Graham Township has worn a lot of hats in his lifetime on his way to his current place of service as a Graham Township supervisor. He was born and raised in Redersburg, a small community near Centre Hall, living with his parents until age 12, in a foster home until age 17 and then back home for a short time.
After high school, he said he worked as an orderly at the Bellefonte Hospital and it was there he met his future wife, Mary Ann, who was in nurses' training at the time. A year later, he enlisted in the Army and received his basic training at Fort Knox, Ky. After basic training, Fort Sam Houston in Texas was his next destination. There, he entered training to become a medic. He and Mary Ann were married in 1967, just 13 days before he shipped out to Vietnam where he served as a medic for two years. He also earned his GED while in the service.
Condo said he was always reluctant to talk about his Vietnam experiences. But, there was a special recognition ceremony held in DuBois in September that was organized by State Rep. Matt Gabler R-75 of DuBois, which became a kind of healing time for him. There were more than 150 Vietnam veterans there and Gabler presented awards to each one.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-5 of Howard, presented each with a bronze medallion. The main speaker was Representative Robbins from Elk County, a Vietnam veteran. The highlight of the event, and a point of release for Condo, was when the DuBois Chief of Police played a rendition of the hymn, "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes and the DuBois Veterans of Foreign Wars gave a 21 gun salute and played "Taps."
Condo said, "That did it - there was not a dry eye among all of those there." He added, "The way Vietnam vets were treated when they came back, as compared to how veterans are treated now, the Vietnam vets needed recognition."
He served a total of four years in the Army and was discharged from Carlisle, where he was stationed after he came back from Vietnam. He and his wife lived in Centre County until the early 1990s when they moved to Graham Township. Upon his return, Condo first worked as an insurance agent and then attended the Lewis Hotel-Motel School in Washington, D.C., graduating in two years.
Another of his endeavors then was as assistant manager of the Bush House in Bellefonte for three years. Condo also drove tour busses for the Fullington Auto Bus Co. and Manson Bus Co. He ran the bus terminal for Fullington in State College in addition to running their airport service, stretch limousine service and CATA (Centre County rides for seniors). For two years, he drove truck for HRI, and worked for the state Department of Transportation plowing snow for two years. In 1991, he became a supervisor for Graham Township.
In 2000, his wife became concerned because he was losing a lot of weight and got him to go and see a doctor, and that is when he found out he had been affected by Agent Orange in Vietnam.
According to Wikipedia, Agent Orange is the combination of the code names for Herbicide Orange and Agent LNX, one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U. S. Military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. The goal of Operation Ranch Hand was to defoliate forested and rural land, depriving guerrillas of cover.
After undergoing many tests in State College, one doctor asked him if he was an alcoholic. He replied no, that the only time he drank was when he was in Vietnam.
The doctor sent him to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Altoona where they determined the cause to be Agent Orange. Condo said Agent Orange affected his nervous system, causing nerve damage on his left side. He said he was in a wheelchair for one-and-a-half years and another year with a walker. During that time, he went to the VA hospital in Altoona for therapy three times a week and now credits his physical therapist there for getting him out of the wheelchair and fitting him with a leg brace.
Agent Orange has affected Condo in several ways. He lost 165 pounds in six months, his pancreas is completely shut down, he has neuropathy and is on medication for the constant pain in his legs, he suffers from Type 2 Diabetes caused by Agent Orange, and he has high blood pressure. The doctors have told him he will eventually be permanently in a wheelchair.
However, Condo declared he is going to keep going until he can't any longer. "You gotta keep your mind going," he said.
He doesn't know for sure how he contacted Agent Orange because he was never in the jungle, having served in American hospitals and American facilities while in Vietnam. He guesses he was exposed when they brought men in to be treated. He gives a lot of credit to the Veterans Administration for its care saying, "They didn't forget about us."
He has served as Graham Township supervisor since 1991 except for three years - when he was off for treatment and therapy. After those three years, he was asked to return as road- master for the township in 2005. He has voluntarily served in that capacity ever since. Although he is unable to work on the roads, he oversees the daily workings of the township.
In addition to being a supervisor and roadmaster, Condo is also the township emergency management coordinator, and a flagger instructor for the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. He serves as Pennsylvania One-Call responder, is the Right to Know Coordinator, is the second vice president of the Clearfield County Supervisors Convention, has earned the honor of being a PA Roads Scholar, having completed 10 courses of study for the Local Technical Assistance Program in Roadway and Bridge Safety and Maintenance in a required length of time, and serves as Commercial Drivers License coordinator for the township. All of these services he performs for the township, including roadmaster, are volunteer positions.
Condo was also involved in mapping and other work regarding the 2000 and 2010 census. Graham Township secretary, Linda Bowes, stated that Condo has probably 50 certificates of completion for his various accomplishments through the years for courses taken and testing accomplished.
He received a letter from the state Department of Transportation complimenting him for meeting the requirements to be a Roads Scholar, noting as a Roads Scholar he is a member of a select group of municipal employees.
Condo notes he has been involved with getting and maintaining every piece of equipment the township owns, saying there is only one more payment on the equipment and all will be paid for. "I'm proud of that," he said.
Condo said, "You have to keep going - you have to keep your mind going. I'm going to keep going until I can't any longer."