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How a stranger’s generosity helped a desperate Vietnam veteran

By Liz Raines Photojournalist: Ken Kulovany - 8:08 PM November 22, 2016
ANCHORAGE –

Last updated at 10:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23

We first introduced you to Robert Stevens in a Problem Solvers piece on Friday. For the last three years, he and his wife, Diane, have been trying to get benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Robert Stevens was exposed to the toxic herbicide known as Agent Orange while serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

Now, their lives have taken a turn for the better because of one person who saw that story.

When we last met the couple, they were drowning in debt.

“They just turned us into collections because I’ve gotten to a point where there’s so many medical bills for Bob,” Diane Stevens said. “I just can’t do it anymore.”

Robert Stevens believes he was exposed to Agent Orange while making his way through Vietnam after receiving orders to return home to Minnesota on April 1, 1969.

“I had a quadruple bypass,” Robert Stevens explained. “And my heart doctor said it was from Agent Orange.”

In order to get any money from the VA, the Stevens have to prove he stepped foot on Vietnamese soil. However, the VA can’t find his records, so Robert and Diane Stevens are now searching for anyone who might still recognize him from that time.

Diane Stevens posted a cry for help on a reunion page for her husband’s ship, the USS Lynde McCormick. The Stevenses haven’t received a response yet, but someone else in the community was listening to their story.

One KTVA viewer was so moved by the couple’s story that he wanted to give them a check for $3,800.

“That’s what the Veterans Administration gave everybody from Vietnam that served in Vietnam, so I thought, ‘Well, he has his check now, he doesn’t have to go through all the red tape,'” he said, handing over the check.

The man wanted to donate anonymously and asked KTVA to deliver the money for him. The Stevenses thought our visit was a quick trip to pick up a permission slip to discuss their case with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Little did they know, their luck was about to change.

“Holy cow!” Robert Stevens said as he held the check.

“Oh my dear lord,” Diane Stevens exclaimed, falling back into her chair. “I’m going to put it in the bank and start paying bills, I really am. This will just pretty much cover everything and there might be a little left over, and if there is, I’d like to go see that new movie.”

When asked when the last time the two had been to see a movie, they looked at each other.

“Thirty years probably,” she laughed.

Thanks to a stranger’s generosity, the couple now has enough to stay afloat for a while.

“Thank you, whoever you are,” Robert Stevens said to the donor.

The Stevens’ still may not have much left over to put in the bank, but that’s not what’s important. Because for the last 35 years, they’ve always had each other.

On Wednesday, students from the King Career Center donated Thanksgiving food items to Robert and Diane, which KTVA delivered to the couple in time for Thanksgiving.

Know someone who has a problem like Robert? Email us at problemsolvers@ktva.com

KTVA 11’s Liz Raines can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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