It’s easy to read a headline that reads: “Man dies in Tuscarawas County kayak accident,” and go on about your day if you’re not impacted. But for some, the ‘man’ in the headline is a loved one.
Ronald Swigert, a 72-year-old man from Tuscarawas County, was much more than just a man who died in a kayak accident. He was a Vietnam War veteran who suffered many health issues from Agent Orange exposure, according to his family.
Agent Orange is “a herbicide mixture used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Much of it contained a dangerous chemical contaminant called dioxin,” according to Aspen Institute.
“Diabetes was the longest of his ailments which he battled successfully for over 40 years,” his son Lonnie told JMN.
Swigert was a three-time cancer survivor who beat prostate cancer, tonsecular cancer and throat cancer – which caused doctors to remove his voice box and replace his entire throat with a tube made from a skin graft.
Swigert had a quintuple bypass several years ago and just finished radiation for lung cancer.
“He was a fighter,” his son Lonnie said. “He was bound and determined to stay alive no matter what life threw at him. He is my father and I am damn proud to say it.”
He said his father was trying something new in kayaking with his other son for the first time.
“Almost to the finish line after having expressed much joy in the experience and looking forward to doing it again, the kyack overturned suddenly,” Lonnie said. “My brother and friends found him quickly and performed life saving measures until emergency personnel arrived.”
Lonnie said the doctors, nurses and first responders worked hard to save Swigert’s life, but “his body was unable to handle the stress placed upon it any longer especially after having been ravaged by the effects of Agent Orange.”