PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Like so many teenagers in the ‘60s, Don Bowers went to Vietnam.

He was a boots on the ground infantry man when it happened.

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“It was December 31, New Year’s Eve day and our company were put on the bank by boats,” he recalled. “We were in the Mekong Delta.”

It was an old VC base and Bowers and his squad found and cleared two land mines.

“Then the third one got me,” he said. “I stepped on it and lost my leg.”

It’s a miracle he wasn’t killed.

“I remember the whole thing,” Bowers said. “I remember going up in the air and hitting the ground and my leg in a hole. I remember it all and it was hurt, it was a lot of pain.”

After a year in hospitals and a lifetime later, you’d never know Bowers has used and worn about nine prosthetic legs over the past 47 years. Each time he returns to the VA Hospital in Oakland for anther.

His current leg, now creating stability issues, should have been replaced months ago.
But the VA says it’s out of money.

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“Well that’s ridiculous,” said Rep. Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair. “We continue to increase the VA budget, they should never tell a veteran we don’t have the money to give you what you need. In terms of a prosthetic leg we need to find out what – that’s just shameful to tell a veteran that kind of thing.”

Murphy, a Lt. Commander in the Navy – said he’s optimistic the new VA administrator is on the right track.

“Our first duty in the VA is to take care of our veterans with the best service possible, so he’s sending the right message,” said Murphy.

Some veterans agree.

“I think with this new guy, he was in the army, so it will be taken care of,” said William Totterdale of Cannonsburg.

But Bowers says he’ll reserve judgment.

“And I’m waiting,” he said, “we’ll see what happens.”

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