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Vietnam Vet, Radio Amateur Granted Dying Wish to Get on the Air One More Time


Vietnam War veteran John Nugent, WA2EQJ, got on the air for what likely will be his final time earlier this month, thanks to help from the Amateur Radio community. The 75-year old US Army Signal Corps veteran, who has cancer, lives at the James A Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Illinois. Licensed since he was 16, he told a social worker at the facility that one item on his “bucket list” was to operate on ham radio one last time. Staffers at the facility got in touch with the Lake County Veterans Assistance Commission, and replies came from the American Legion Amateur Radio Club, the North Shore Amateur Radio Club, and Lake County Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), among others.

“He was just over the moon,” social worker Alesia Behnke told the Chicago Tribune. “We had no idea we were going to pull it off.”

The various Amateur Radio volunteers did, however, setting up an antenna outside the facility and a simple HF station inside. David Hartnett, K9DRH, and crew Don Whitney, K9DRW; James Nelson, K9QF; Harry Hahn, WB9R, and Scott Campbell, KC9SJP, were among those who made it happen. ARRL Illinois Section Manager Ron Morgan, AD9I, spread the word that WA2EQJ would be on the air.

“John is terminally ill and wanted to make some 20-meter radio contacts one last time,” a post on the Lake County RACES page recounted. “He has been in the [Lovell Center] for more than 3 years.” Nugent volunteered to serve in the Army and was wounded during his Vietnam service.

On December 5, Nugent — with help from his family members and Lovell Center staff — turned on his radio and worked stations in California, Illinois, and Texas. After the contacts were in the log, Nugent’s son Chris thanked the Lake County RACES and other volunteers who facilitated his dad’s last wish.

Among the stations Nugent worked was special event W9F, operated by members of the Fermilab Amateur Radio Club (WB9IKJ) to mark the 50th anniversary of the National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab).

“We were able to add dying Army vet John Nugent, WA2EQJ, to the W9F special event log because of the rapid e-mail alert from the ARRL Illinois Section Manager, notifying ARRL members that it was Mr. Nugent’s dying wish to make a final radio contact,” Michaline Przekop, KC9ARP, told ARRL. “It was truly touching and unforgettable experience.”

Video of the event is available.



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