Dave Evans, W.Va. Vietnam Veteran Featured In WVPB Documentary, Dies at 68
Dave Evans, a native of Cabin Creek, WV and a U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, passed away Saturday, July 3 at the age of 68.
Evans enlisted at age 17, at the height of the Vietnam war. He was featured in West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s 2017 documentary, Vietnam: West Virginians Remember.
Evan spent the last 4 decades traveling to war-torn countries fitting the innocent bystanders of war with prosthetic limbs. His work was a passion that touched literally thousands of lives around the world, and a life-long commitment Evans made following the loss of his own legs in an ambush in Vietnam in 1970. He was just 18 years old at the time.
“We became doctors. We became lawyers. We became a lot, went to work in a lot of different professions, but we never left Vietnam behind us,” Evans told WVPB Executive Producer Suzanne Higgins in a 2016 interview.
“When you send an 18-year-old kid to war and they cross that bridge from peacetime into wartime, there’s no way they ever come back. There’s no way. That bridge is burned. You’ve changed forever.”
After returning home to West Virginia, Evans became a state leader and national player in the anti-war movement. He was a national board member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, and West Virginia’s first state president of the State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America.
Evans returned to school and became proficient in prosthetic design and fitting. Funded by various charitable organizations, he spent decades traveling to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and South America, fitting surviving civilian casualties of war with new limbs, and training local medical professionals.
He reflected in 2016 on his experiences in Vietnam, connecting that war to the wars of today.
“When I see these kids, our soldiers today, and know what a waste it is or what a useless effort this has been, regime change, I think why in the hell did our sacrifices mean nothing?” he said. “Everybody knew what these wars would turn out to be. I mean it wasn’t a surprise to anybody. We forgot the lessons of Vietnam!”
Evans said his time in Vietnam changed what he described as his core value and his life’s mission.
“You can’t talk me out of helping these folks. Even sometimes when my own life is in a little bit of peril, it is something that changed me forever,” he said.
“When you think about it, these young kids I’m able to help, they’re in the same situation I was 46 years ago. They’re sitting in a wheelchair with very little hope and part of their anatomy missing. So I guess it’s my way of paying back the world for what happened in Vietnam, what we did there,” said Evans. “It set my moral compass on due north and I’ve tried to stay that route for the last 46 years.”
Dave Evans was one of five Vietnam veterans from West Virginia who shared their life stories in our documentary Vietnam: West Virginians Remember. You can find the full story of Dave’s journey, along with the other veterans in our program posted at wvpublic.org/vietnamwv.