Nicholas Boquist was in his 20s when the U.S. Navy sent him to Korea.
“I was in on the tail end of the Korean War,” the 78-year-old Key Center resident said. “I was on an LST, and we were bringing troops back from Seoul. I was carrying a 100-pound sack of flour up a gangway, and the ship took a bounce and so did I.”
The back injury the young sailor sustained sent him to Balboa Hospital in San Diego for several months. He’d been in the Navy for six years.
“I wanted to make the service my career,” he said.
Instead, he said, the Navy discharged him.
Boquist says it was because of the back injury, and has filed claims with the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs to that effect.
“I talked to the VA several times in Bremerton, and I never could get anywhere with them. They just ignored me. I went to the DVA in Bremerton, and they sent papers in, but they never pushed it for me. I’ve been trying for many years to get disability. I had a back problem in the service, and they put me out of the service for it.”
Out of the service, he followed his skills into construction work.
“I ran heavy equipment,” he said. “That didn’t help me any, I can tell you that.”
He’s had three back operations, he said, and “each time it’s gotten worse.”
Each time he paid for them through his work insurance and covered the deductibles with his own money.
He has, he said, been trying to get VA help for 30 years.
“I live in a fifth wheel on my son’s property,” he said. “I live very modestly. Just me and my cat.”
He believes he earned disability with his back injury. Even a 10 percent ruling would make all the difference, especially if paid retroactive to his first claim.
“At least maybe I could get a nice apartment, somewhere to live,” he said.
Erica Westling, the veteran service officer working out of the PCMARVETS mobile field office, has read Boquist’s record and believes he earned those benefits.
At the first of the year, she represented him at the hearing after his most recent claim.
“I don’t know how they treat a lot of the veterans,” Boquist said. “I don’t think I was treated right by the government until I ran into Erica. She’s the only one who pushed it for me. At least we got a hearing.”
That hearing, with support through PCMARVETS, may, after decades, bring him the support the military promised and that Westling believes he earned.