Ron Jefferson, Last Man Standing

Cross of Gallantry, Korean Cross of Gallantry, Vietnam National Service Medal, National Defense Medal, Republic of Vietnam Medal, U.S. Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Purple Heart, Cross of Gallantry, Vietnam 212 Aviation Battalion Wings of Freedom, Certificate of Appreciation signed by President Richard Nixon, Army Commendation Medal and Certificate signed by the Secretary of the Army for service as Green Beret in Vietnam.

Cross of Gallantry, Korean Cross of Gallantry, Vietnam National Service Medal, National Defense Medal, Republic of Vietnam Medal, U.S. Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Purple Heart, Cross of Gallantry, Vietnam 212 Aviation Battalion Wings of Freedom, Certificate of Appreciation signed by President Richard Nixon, Army Commendation Medal and Certificate signed by the Secretary of the Army for service as Green Beret in Vietnam.

Veteran of the Week

By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist

Ron Jefferson is known at the Birmingham VA Medical Center as the “Last Man Standing,” the only living Vietnam veteran to have served five consecutive tours in Vietnam.

At age 17 Jefferson entered the U.S. Navy in 1962 as a cook and was honorably discharged in 1974 as a Green Beret in the U.S. Army, rank Master Sergeant.

He earned many medals during his years of service including the Purple Heart and Cross of Gallantry.

Jefferson suffered major nerve damage due to Agent Orange exposure. He wears leg braces and has had debilitating chronic pain for years.

Today he has been given a new lease on life by receiving the first neuro-stimulator implant at the VA.

“Dr. Richard Maughon is my hero and savior,” said Jefferson. “My implant was March 3, 2014, and I have gone from 30 pain pills a day to just a few. This implant has been a breath of fresh air and has given me the freedom to enjoy the later part of my life.”

Jefferson was born on Oct. 19, 1944, the youngest of 10 children, to a very patriotic family in the 7th Ward New Orleans.

All five of his brothers served in each of the military branches.

“In my neighborhood, the only way out was prison or the military,” said Jefferson. “I am proud to have served my country, and I am proud to have raised two good sons.”

Jefferson is a regular at VA support groups, especially Wednesday’s pain management group on the eighth floor led by therapist Elizabeth Matthews.

“We welcome walk-ins,” said Jefferson. “It is a good atmosphere, a place where young vets can go and have someone understand them. Vets like me tend to keep everything in. You need a place to go and have a safe place to talk. The suicide rate is too high with our vets; they abuse drugs and need help. They listen to me because I have been there; they trust me. I get my peace and healing from helping other people.”

For information about the VA support groups, call Jefferson at 516-2486 or rongreenberet@aol.com.