Illinois man battles PTSD he brought home from Vietnam

Belleville News-DemocratAugust 9, 2009 

DUPO, Ill. _ Last month, just a few days apart, two letters arrived in Kenny Euge's mailbox in rural St. Clair County, Illinois.

Each letter, in its own way, rocked Euge's world.

The first letter came from the county zoning office. The second letter came from a Texas multimillionaire. It contained a message about an event half a world away that's haunted Euge for nearly four decades.

The zoning office letter announced county plans to evict Euge in 30 days from his home _ a bright red railroad caboose _ because his property had become the subject of complaints.

The letter was the latest battle in Euge's long-running war with the county over his property _ an enclave carved out among southern St. Clair County's rolling hills, the boundaries of which are staked out by Euge's twin obsessions: vehicles and the sculpture art he's created out of the stuff of landfills and junkyards.

Two ancient, hulking steam engines sit under a rusted corrugated roof. An old Humvee bought on eBay blocks one end of his driveway, while another Humvee blocks the other.

And then there are the sculptures adorning his front yard _ vividly colored objects bolted and welded together from discarded springs and car pistons, from scraps of metal and bits of plastic.

Euge, 59, discovered his passion for sculpture as a soldier in Vietnam. It's his therapy for the post-traumatic stress disorder he brought home from the war.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by exposure to life-threatening events. Euge's PTSD, which has left him 70 percent disabled, is a legacy of the firefights he took part in amid the highlands and valleys of War Zone C, hard by the Cambodian border, as a member of Alpha Troop, First Squadron, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.

Ever since Vietnam, the twice-divorced father of three said he's felt "discarded."

With his sculptures, Euge said, "I want to show the world that even discarded things can be beautiful."

The second letter came from an entirely unexpected source _ John Poindexter, a Houston industrialist. As a young captain in 1970, Poindexter was Alpha Troop's hard-charging commander.

Poindexter's letter informed Euge that he and other Alpha Troop members had been selected to receive a Presidential Unit Citation, a rare honor bestowed on military units that have shown extraordinary courage and determination under the deadliest conditions.

To read the complete article, visit bnd.com.

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