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Vietnam Marine falls down flight of stairs, gets a little help from his friends


Vietnam veteran Archie Allen has a lot of friends.

The kind of friends who made sure he was able to return home after a nasty fall left him temporarily unable to walk. They don’t think of themselves as mere friends, though.

To them, Allen is family.

“He’s like an adopted dad,” said Kathy Lyon of Mount Pleasant.

Lyon met Allen six months ago, and when she learned he had broken his ankles and couldn’t get into his house without a wheelchair ramp, she put out a plea for help on Facebook.

It didn’t take long for that plea to be answered. Allen has been a biker since the 1960s, and when word of his plight reached the Cedar Rapids-based Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, the group took a vote and started raising money for the ramp. More than a half-dozen club members rode Saturday to Allen’s home north of Burlington, where they met the man for the first time.

“I am one happy person. Otherwise, I couldn’t come home,” Allen said, choking back tears of gratitude.

It’s been a rough couple months for Allen, starting with the search for a bathroom light switch at a friend’s house. He opened the basement door believing it was the door to the bathroom and reached into the darkness to find a light switch.

But all he found was air, and Allen tumbled down 13 steps to the basement floor.

Burlington resident Carole Seibert, who became friends with Allen a couple years ago, was with him when he fell. She said he’s lucky to be alive.

“He was bruised from his head to his feet,” Seibert said.

In addition to breaking both ankles, Allen cracked three ribs and suffered a cut above his eye that required more than 30 stitches. He spent four weeks in the hospital, then another five weeks in a New London nursing home. He can put weight on his right foot now, but his left ankle got the worst of it with a spiral fracture. He won’t be walking on that foot until it comes out of the cast, which won’t be for at least three or four weeks.

Without the ramp, Allen still would be in a nursing home.

“We’re hoping to get him back to normal,” said Seibert, who takes Allen to his doctor appointments and helps around the house.

While the club itself put up the money for the ramp, bikers Tony Novak, Gary Ross and Dave White did the building. White, of Mount Pleasant, said the job was finished within two days.

“I know Archie very, very well. He’s like my adopted dad,” said White, who didn’t realize Lyon had said the same thing minutes earlier.

Like many combat veterans, Allen prefers not to get too detailed about the 27 months he served in Vietnam as part of the Marine Corps. He manged to avoid injury, but that was the singular silver lining.

“In simple words, it was hell,” he said.

Allen was born and raised in Canton, Illinois, and moved to Burlington after returning home from the war. He worked at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, then at a foundry before settling in for a 32-year career at General Electric.

During the past seven years, Allen has lost two wives. His married his first wife, Frances Allen, in 1966, and they stayed together until her death in 2010. He then married Frances Hesseltine, who died in 2015.

Allen is far from alone, though. A couple years ago, he got a pet donkey by the name of Willie, who wanders the yard and isn’t afraid to greet strangers. Then there are his multitude of friends, several of whom look upon him as a second father.

Now Allen’s friendship pool includes the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. The kind of friends who have endured the hell of combat and live for the open road — just like Allen.

“I appreciate it brothers,” he said to the biker veterans, once again choking back tears.
(c)2017 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa) — www.thehawkeye.com
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