Fourth Year Tribute and Memorial To Captain Kevin Donnelly
Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly, August 4th, 2004
By: Kevin’s Sister
I continue to share honestly, respectfully and straight-up.
As the fourth anniversary of my brother’s death approaches,
again I raise my chin, shoulders back, and share as my brother requested.
Why? I gave him my Word.
Kevin’s predictions, sadly, continue to unravel.
His predictions have been accurate, many painful to silently witness.
I honor my brother by sharing the ‘truth’.
If you are new to this journey, this path,
read my brother’s story, free on the Internet: “The Panama Story.”
Kevin wrote one chapter a night, after his diagnosis with Hep C.
If you are new to this journey, this path,
read my sequel to my brother’s story, free on the Internet:
“The Truth: He was a Brother, a Vet and He Died Before His Time,”
which I wrote because he asked me ‘if I could’, prior to his death.
If you are new to this journey, this path,
read the emails I have posted each year, and you will read
I’ve already met with an accomplished film director who is interested in the movie about Kevin’s life, his death and the ‘truth’.
Yes, I continue to meet people who come forward and
‘share’ caution for my sharing.
More importantly, I meet veterans, adults and teens who thank me for sharing.
They share that they need truth, honesty, facts, data, as they move forward with their own diagnosis of Hepatitis C, side effects, depression or additional diseases.
Others share that they need ‘true’ information due to the diagnosis of a loved one.
Folks, this is not the path I chose.
When the hair stands up on the back of my neck resulting from Kevin’s disease, research and his actions dedicated to sharing the truth with others,
I am comforted knowing that detailed details are already in the hands of others.
What was not timely then and needs to be shared, will, in fact, be shared.
Why? I gave him my Word.
If you know someone with Hep C, share the site Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly and LeighAnn Vogel built: www.geocities.com/hepvet and www.captainkevindonnelly.com
The sites contain a wealth of information for veterans, individuals, family members.
I bow my head sharing the date of Kevin’s diagnosis with Hepatitis C was given to Kevin on December 23, 1997.
Almost six years to the date of Kevin’s diagnosis, my dad, also a veteran, was diagnosed.
I ask for your prayers.
I will continue to pray for others on this path,
and for those on the paths that are being created
because we ‘do’ share, because we ‘do’ stand tall.
The truth must be shared.
History must record the truth of Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly and Hepatitis.
Why? I gave him my Word.
April 28th, 2003, I, Kevin’s Sister, received the following email:
“INVITATION TO SPEAK
You are cordially invited to be a guest speaker at Hepatitis’ Movement for Awareness spring campaign, the National March on D.C., May 23rd, 2003.
Your presence will help this nation realize how fast HCV is spreading, and what we need to do to stop it.
We would like you to address what you personally have experienced …
Please accept our invitation; help us stop the spread of HCV and save lives.
Patricia Lupole, National Coordinator
Hepatitis C’s Movement for Awareness
Events are scheduled to begin Thursday, May 22, 2003 with a pre-march rally.
A silent auction will be held to benefit awareness with proceeds going to our expenses for the march.
This will be followed by the National March to Freedom Plaza the next day, Friday the 23rd. The March begins at 10:00 a.m. with a rally across from the Capitol on the National Mall. We will arrive at Freedom Plaza with guest speakers scheduled from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Doctors, advocates, veterans groups, and people living with this disease will discuss the huge hurdles in HCV awareness, prevention and education.
The activities continue Saturday, May 24th with veterans’ ceremonies, honoring our military and a candle light vigil at Thomas Circle National Park, located at Massachusetts and Vermont Ave.
Participants will light candles and read names in remembrance of all those that passed from this devastating disease. The International Quilts will be on display all three days.”
This above-email arrived one day, creating a new ‘path’ to honor my brother, Kevin. Included with the invitation, was a second invitation: An opportunity to share ‘the’ only eulogy, two years and nine months after Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly’s death.
The invitation would permit me to listen and to share, upon request, the truth of Kevin’s life, infection, diagnosis, research, events within the residence prior to his death.
The invitation would also permit me to listen to and to share documented facts that occurred after his death.
Kevin’s patch on a Hep C quilt, which my mom and family ‘decorated’ with Kevin’s name, and which my mom sewed Kevin’s army medical badge – this patch would be displayed and included with the ‘quilts’.
My dad, a veteran and Kevin’s father, made the decision that I ‘had’ to go to validate Kevin’s work, research and Kevin’s life and to photograph the quilt.
My presentation, as each speaker that day, was filmed on commercial broadcast equipment for education, advocacy and for documenting our ‘truth’.
Though I approached the event fearful, when I departed, I felt a weight had been lifted.
I was able to witness the respect Kevin had earned.
I was able to witness the facts as Kevin had predicted.
I was able to stand tall and to witness to each veteran, each person, who shared their ‘truth’ with me.
Speaker Introducing Kevin’s Sister, May 23, 2003, Washington D.C.: “Monette Benoit, the sister of Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly, will tell about her quest for the truth while honoring her brother who was a veteran with Hep B & C, an advocate and a researcher who died August 5th, 2000.”
(Audience applause as Kevin’s Sister approaches podium and mic)
Monette: I promised – I’ll pick the mic up in a minute – I promised my mom and my dad I’d do this. (placing tape recorder on podium)
Audience Member: Pick up the microphone.
Monette: I’ll pick up the microphone in a minute. I will. I will.
(Monette places recorder on podium, alongside one long stem yellow rose.
An enlarged black and white photo, from our family photo album, is silently displayed, slowing moving right to left, for audience viewing.)
“That’s my baby brother, Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly.
This is who many of you wrote to.
This is not who you knew.
By the time you knew him, he was a veteran, military soldier – –
Audience Member: Speak up.
Monette: “I have a low voice, I’m sorry.
– – a veteran, military soldier, and I just wanted you to have a face.
He never had a eulogy, and I wrote something that I want to read for y’all, but I just wanted to give you a face
because so many people didn’t have a face.
It’s not a faceless disease.
(Monette pauses, head down.)
Audience member: “You’re doing great.”
Monette: “This is my salute to my brother; that was how I got through this.”
“ ‘No matter what they say, they’ll see in time, I know.
When destiny calls you, you must be strong. I may not be with you.
They’ll see in time, I know. Just look over your shoulder, I’ll be there – always.’
Those words are by Phil Collins, and when I was working on my brother’s research, putting it together, that song kept coming on the radio.
I heard it on the radio so often, I believed that I ‘have’ to share that.
Why am I here today, May 23rd, 2003? I am Kevin’s Sister.
I am proud to be known simply as Kevin’s Sister.
My name is Monette, and I am here to show commitment and to honor the life of my youngest brother, Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly.
May I have a glass of water, please?”
Monette: “He was 41 years old, too young, too sick, and too alone when he died, even as he was working to help others.
Today for the first time:
I want to thank his second wife, Tina [Justine Velochi Lomonte], whom he married in 1992.
Had she done the right thing, I would have stopped asking questions.
I would have stopped making phone calls, taking notes, sending faxes, writing emails – some to many of you.
Had Tina done the right thing, I would not have committed myself to this path, especially upon Kevin’s death.
That was Kevin’s path. I just was a ‘witness’; I was a sister.
I committed –to Kevin– the last time I saw him – I committed ‘only’ to listening, if I could.
I didn’t promise; he said I might not be able to. I committed “if I could.”
I committed – to Kevin – ‘only’ to witnessing if I ‘could’, to how many of his predictions came true, just as he had asked when we last hugged our last hug outside the residence in Lindenhurst, New York.
As his only sister, I committed – to me – to continue to love my youngest brother, no matter what he did.
Knowing when I left him that last time, I would never ever see him again.
And I committed to him, not to cry.
My mom had cried, and he ‘begged’ me, please, don’t cry.
We stood there, and we stood there, while I tried not to cry.
And I didn’t. That’s one thing I’m proud of.
I committed to Kevin ‘knowing’ I needed to continue to share him – knowing he was sharing so much more with each of you;
more with each of you than he was with my mother and my father or with my family or with me now.
I committed to Kevin – to letting Kevin choose his path, a path that he was so passionate about.
I used to call him the Hep Radio: All Hep, All The Time.
If you knew my brother, that was it.
If you had a few hours or a few minutes, all hep, all the time.
He was passionate about veterans, Hepatitis C, the truth, respect, honesty, professional, medical treatment – true professional, ethical medical treatment.
If Tina Velochi Lomonte Donnelly had shared his research,
not the computer itself, just the work on it –
I did not want what was not mine – or even his email address book,
I would not be standing here today.
If she had returned to my parents the few items they requested,
I would never have pursued ‘where’ I have.
I listened and listened to inaccuracies and to unproven statements until one event occurred in my life.
That event was the day I learned the rank on his tombstone was incorrect.
Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly was given a tombstone at Calverton National Cemetery, Long Island, New York, for a Second Lieutenant by his second wife, Tina Velochi Lomonte Donnelly.
That one ‘moment’ is still frozen, for me, in time.
It caused me to stop and focus.
I sat down on the floor, and I pulled out all my notes, just as Kevin did one day.
Kevin’s ‘moment’ occurred when he read copies of his military vaccinations.
The copy he received and the original copy he had from his military service, were different.
Kevin’s life shifted in that one ‘moment’.
That ‘moment’ remained frozen in his time,
and many of you benefited from that moment.
He did not ever get stuck in the moment; he shifted.
I reviewed all my notes, handwritten and typed, just as Kevin had done one day.
I started to pull together my emotions, my focus, and my newer questions, just as Kevin had done, sitting on the floor, one day.
Without realizing it, I did just what Kevin did, and I wasn’t thinking of Kevin.
I had enough.
My ‘enough meter’ went off.
I sat on the floor and I said “enough already.”
And I meant it. I wanted truth.
I wanted ‘facts’.
I now wanted RESPECT for my dead baby brother.
I began to ask questions.
Each question, whether answered truthfully or not, created another question.
Just like Kevin, I pursued truth, respect and honesty.
Just like Kevin, when I found out that ‘what’ my family had been told about his death and what Kevin had predicted regarding his research had, in fact, occurred –
– after his death – even the prediction that his cats would be taken to the Bide-A-Wee Animal Shelter, the first day it was open for business.
They were put in cages and shipped out that morning.
His research would not be returned – items important to Kevin would not be returned.
I waited, and I waited, respectfully.
Grief is a terrible thing. I know people do things in grief.
So I waited and I waited, but I asked head down, shoulders back, but I asked.
I waited because Kevin’s research was not returned.
Items that were so important to Kevin – those moments, inaccuracies, and those actions, caused ‘me’ to turn my focus to a new direction, a new path.
As I focused, my husband even asked: “When are you coming back?”
I said, “I don’t know, honey, but if you never let me go, it will never be the same, but I’ll come back stronger.”
So I went. I began seeking the truth, and I went.
I ‘narrowed’ my focus, just like Kevin did – only seeking – ‘the truth’.
When one year passed, one year to the day, and the computer research he worked on day and night was never shared, his research or even if I had just gotten the email address book –
– I know about anonymity. I know that. Kevin taught me about that.
I wanted the address book. That was it.
There were things my brother begged of me.
If I had even gotten his email address book that the members of the Hepatitis C community had offered to purchase – there was a lot going on behind the scenes we didn’t share at the time after his death.
Later a few people phoned the home.
We would have given the money just for the address book.
When these things were not returned by his second wife, Justina Velochi Lomonte Donnelly, I continued to seek Truth.
One year to the day I published, stunned and yes fearful, I published my sequel to Kevin Drue Donnelly’s “The Panama Story.”
I leaned into the wind, again.
“THE TRUTH – He Was a Brother, A Vet, And He Died Before His Time”
** And for the first time, the very first time, guys, I answered honestly and with respect what many of you had whispered about; what many of you had written to me about. There was a rifle. Kevin died from a bullet.
Unknown to me, Kevin had been served with divorce papers, earlier that day August 1st, the day he purchased the rifle. He had placed the receipt on his bed, on top of the divorce papers.
Unknown to me, Kevin had been court evicted, forced out of his home by two sheriffs, August 4th, 2000, a few hours before his death.
Known to me, Kevin was not crazy, as only a handful alleged. He left the home, my baby brother, left the home with Blockbuster videos in one hand – a small suitcase the sheriffs forced him to pack in the other, and he asked his neighbor, an ex-Marine, to drive him to Blockbusters to return them to the store.
I spoke to the sheriffs, and they were incredulous my brother was very calm, and Kevin said, “I do not want the videos to be returned late.”
That’s my brother, but see, you get that?
What I got was a message; he sent a very clear message.
I don’t know if it was to me, but the minute I heard that, I went – (snapping fingers) – that was ‘my’ brother.
With that one clear message, I knew what he had done.
My brother left a trail.
He was not crazy. A crazy person does not leave a home with a suitcase, forced out, forced to turn off all the lights, lock the door, turn the pool off and not allow – the only thing my brother was asking, politely begging for, composed – I spoke to the detectives.
I spoke to everybody that was in that home.
The only thing he asked for was his research.
He didn’t ask for the windbreaker they made him put on.
He didn’t ask for any of his clothes.
My brother, being forced out of him home, asked for research. He asked for his work.
And, yes, by the way, I did call Blockbusters, and I verified that they were, in fact, returned, ‘three’ videos. They weren’t his. They were his stepdaughter’s.
Kevin didn’t watch videos, as you know.
Unknown to me, Kevin did try to phone his wife that night. She is a veteran and is a nurse.
Tina Donnelly was working in an emergency room, the night shift, in a Long Island hospital.
He was trying to request only his research.
She never answered the beeper when he phoned.
The neighbor phoned; she never answered the beeper. Kevin was not able to speak to anybody that night about retrieving his research from within the home he now was prohibited by court order from entering.
He wanted to do his scheduled radio interview the next day.
That evening, he was working – just prior to the sheriffs arriving – with Phyllis Beck in Oregon, working to help Dr. Cecil open the Oregon clinic.
My brother worked on Hepatitis C, until the doorbell rang. He wanted to do his radio interview the next day.
To date, May 23, 2003, not one call has ever been returned to my parents, Kevin’s mother and father, not two years and nine months since his death, from his wife. We’ve never been given the courtesy of one phone call, though we have received inaccuracies, now corrected through my efforts and those of individuals involved with accurate knowledge August 1st, 2000 and thereafter.
Had I spoken about the rifle after his death in August and during the holidays, when many of you were emailing me – when you were going through LeighAnn Vogel to get to me, I still believe the timing would have not have been right.
If I made the wrong decision, you can blame me, but I must share:
Many who contacted me via email were emotional – many were ‘too’ emotional.
Many phoned Kevin’s residence. Y’all had his home phone number.
Y’all spoke to him many-a-time.
Many phoned his residence when Kevin’s email was swiftly turned off – another prediction swiftly became ‘reality’.
The emails that Kevin always been answered, now were bouncing back as having an invalid email address.
Many of you were calling the home to find out what happened to Kevin. Many of you thought that he was having computer problems.
Many of you thought he was on vacation.
Many emailed me to share ‘what’ they were being told and how they were being spoken to by members within Kevin’s residence.
Many were friends, veterans, people truly grieving for the sudden and complete loss of their dear friend, veteran and comrade.
I waited one year to the day to speak honestly, to speak to you, hoping to be respectful and importantly, to have my parents and the Hepatitis C community be treated respectfully.
One year to the day, I moved forward – I leaned into the wind.
It was the kindness of strangers that helped me to stand tall, that helped me to ‘learn’ how to succinctly tell this Truth.
They said: Never Forget. Never Forget. Honor Your Brother. Never Forget.
I learned to stand tall.
I am not ashamed. I will not go to the corner head bowed. I will not.
My brother’s spirit was bright ‘and’ his spirit burned with passion.
I am blessed to have memories.
When we went out, since he had blonde hair and I’m a brunette, we always had to show our driver’s licenses to prove we were brother and sister.
We went to many parties together.
When he took trips, sometimes he arrived at my college, almost 400 miles away, many times unannounced.
He moved into my dorm room; later he stayed in other dorm rooms in the ‘female’ wing and was quite the hit with the ladies.
I would return from class and find Kevin in a room of college girls – helping them with their homework.
I would shake my head, wince one eye at him and would back out of the room.
I was the one answering to my parents where Kevin was, and what he was doing while he was staying with me –
– Kevin was 16. Sixteen, helping the college girls with their homework.
And I remember going to class one day and coming back, and his ear was pierced.
I remember going to class one day and coming back, and he told me what ‘she’ had showed him how to do in bed.
That was my brother.
For years, we would sit up talking all night. It was a great friendship.
We laughed. We talked about silly things. We talked.
One morning after I was married, he answered my doorbell, opening the front door in his underwear, no shirt, body bronzed from being in the sun.
His body was sculpted from physical activities – and his hair was sticking straight up.
We had been up talking until 4:00 a.m.
Many of you know him as a night-owl.
When the doorbell rang, I begged him not to answer the door.
The man from Holy Spirit Catholic Church had arrived to give me bicycles that I would be giving away to my clients at the St. Vincent De Paul Society.
I was a full-time volunteer with the St. Vincent De Paul Society for four years.
Bob refused to believe Kevin was my brother.
He kept asking: WHERE is your husband?
He kept asking for my husband until Kevin, disgusted, walked into my kitchen.
Kevin opened the fridge, and he took out a carton of orange juice.
Kevin removed the top; he tossed back his head, and he swigged off the carton of orange juice.
The man in my living room said quickly:
“Yeah, that ‘has’ to be a brother. No one else would do THAT!!!!”
Kevin shook his head, I remember. He waved his right hand in the air, put my OJ on the counter, sighed, eyeballed the guy, walked back to the living room, fell back on the couch. He went back to sleep. I cracked up.
I remember one Halloween when Kevin dressed as a clown and took underprivileged children, clients of mine, from St. Vincent De Paul.
He took them trick-or-treating. I have the pictures of him with the three small children.
He said that was the best night of his life.
Those children had never been to a ‘real’ neighborhood that gave candy.
Another time, Kevin arrived at our house unannounced.
As he pulled up, the man across the street came over to his car and asked who he was.
Kevin said, “I’m her brother.”
The neighbor said, “She doesn’t have any brothers.”
Kevin laughed and pulled off, driving around the city until I came home from work.
He told me he was pleased that I had neighbors that wouldn’t believe him – and we both joked that he could have proven it with his driver’s license.
We snickered and fell over laughing over ‘simple’ events like that;
simple things ‘before’ Hepatitis C entered his life.
I was his ‘date’ at several military functions.
Kevin picked out my clothes, short skirt, black boots, heels, leather jacket.
We would walk arm in arm, and he teased me that the military ‘superiors’ somehow would cross the room to talk to him when he had a tall woman on his arm.
I have those pictures, too.
And by the way, I’m the shortest one in my family; I was always the shrimp.
I was blessed to have had such a great friendship with him.
When it was good, it was very good.
When it was bad, it was very bad.
We were ‘just’ brother and sister back then.
It was not complicated. We were friends.
He wanted to meet all my girlfriends. They all wanted to meet him.
And Kevin could talk to any girl, any child, any adult, on any subject.
He loved life!
He loved to paint, to write poetry, to sing, to play chess, to compete in sports.
Kevin loved to climb the Catskill mountains with his best friend, Eugene during the winter and the summer, camping on the ground, carrying the tent and equipment on his back.
He loved to whistle and could whistle complete tunes, complete tunes in harmony.
One time, he whistled the theme from Dr. Zhivago, and I stayed inside the bathroom he was guarding in his male college dormitory, waiting for him to finish. We laughed about that, too.
One time we were asked to leave the National Edgar Allen Poe Museum. We had started giggling and couldn’t stop.
The strict, mature matron with her hair in a tight bun, army boots on her feet, found our laughing disruptive.
The more she frowned and asked us not to laugh, the more we laughed.
We were actually escorted to the door, during the tour and asked to return when we ‘could’ be more mature.
My brother loved to dance.
When Boz Scaggs would come on the radio, or his favorite band, Marshall Tucker, he would stop what he was doing.
He’d get up and get me – and he’d start dancing with me.
I didn’t have to dance. I just had to stand there. He danced around me.
He loved life.
His commitment to what he was doing at each point in his life was pure and passionate, especially to the Hepatitis C community.
Y’all got 110 percent. Y’all got the best of him.
When I began this path, I simply wanted my brother’s memory, his funeral, his burial, his tombstone, his research, my mother and father –
– to have been treated respectfully, accurately, factually and with simple honor.
Facts speak differently. So, thus am I here, standing before you today.
When I told people I was coming here, many were astounded, some looked away.
One man, a stranger, looked me in the eye, and said, “Well, what can you do? You have to move on. What can you do ….” And he shrugged uncomfortably.
I smiled slowly, looked back and I said,
“Well, I’m going, and I’m going to make lemonade.” We both smiled –
(Audience laughter and applause)
– I did. It wasn’t easy. We both smiled –
He shook my hand, and then I departed back into my world.
I do not want bitterness to come out here. Not today. Not tomorrow.
It may seem hard to paint a positive picture with this.
I am challenged, as each of you are, with Hepatitis C, since it entered my world.
Kevin worked to craft his words carefully:
` to notice ‘the’ pain and
` to give hope to ‘the’ future.
` Each of you here has your own situation here, your own future.
Kevin used to say, quote, “knock the program and the people who created and shared Hepatitis C, but do not knock this country.”
Others now are building momentum.
The pioneering job initially was done by Kevin and others that loved him and their family members, with Hepatitis C.
Kevin followed every lead that he could; he climbed every mountain.
He turned every corner to help the Hepatitis community, and he descended into valleys, as the disease advanced and ravaged, throughout his body.
Kevin’s Hepatitis C was more severe because it attacked his system more aggressively than it did other people.
His diagnosis came too late.
Dr. Melissa Palmer, on Long Island, terminated him as a patient.
Kevin wanted and ‘needed’ answers.
His letters to her and to the New York Commissioner Department of Health regarding Dr. Palmer and ‘treatment’, March 1998, reveal his truth.
He did not receive the information that you all now have.
He did not receive the advocacy or the education that you all now have.
He did not receive the medical treatment, which you all now have.
His system was not able to fight it off – after so many years untreated.
He thought he was strong as an ox, and he said that, but he found out he wasn’t.
Kevin was more angry ‘at’ himself, than he was ‘at’ anybody.
He had a hard time forgiving himself for, quote, “allowing them to do that –”
– for “allowing the injection of the possible cure of Hepatitis B when he was a solider in the military, to be injected into his arm, back when he was a teenager after he had enlisted and was sent to Germany.”
I believe he was 17 or had just turned 18.
I still receive chills when I hear this song from Enya and it’s called:
“A Day Without Rain.” Some of the lyrics are:
“Pilgrim, how you journey, on the road you chose,
to find out why the winds die and where this story goes.
All days come from one day – that you must know.
You can not change what’s over, but only where you go.
One way leads to diamonds, one way leads to gold.
Another way leads you only to everything you’re told.
In your heart, you wonder which of these is true,
the road that leads to no where – is the one that leads to you.
Will you find the answer in all you say and do?
Pilgrim in your journey, you may travel far,
But pilgrim, it’s a long way to find out ‘who’ you ‘are’.”
My brother did become ‘a pilgrim’, the day he received the virus.
Perhaps many of you are also pilgrims.
Your life changed from one moment, in one ‘moment’.
The best years of Kevin’s life, he always said were those years in the military.
He thrived in the military, and he had great respect for the military and especially for veterans.
Kevin was in the military 24 years and 8 months.
A letter denying his promotion to the rank of “Major” arrived at the residence the day before his funeral, August 7th, 2000.
Tina Velochi Donnelly, his second wife, told me about the letter, the afternoon of Kevin’s funeral as we were returning to the funeral parlor. We were both riding in the backseat of her parents’ car.
Kevin never saw the letter, but he knew it was coming.
He wanted his promotion.
He very much wanted to stay ‘in’ the military.
He was being pushed out.
The facts reveal this, too.
After his diagnosis and research, Kevin always said, quote,
“I will ‘always’ remember that one day – and how this happened in Germany.”
As teens, he and his, quote, ‘buddies’, he said, teased and laughed about the shot – which they thought and “were told” would improve their health.
They laughed how they would get over the ‘symptoms’, and when they were first hospitalized it would be “real quick with all the new technology that was available in the late seventies” and then – –
Kevin would always add: “but I was foolish.”
Kevin used to say that he would much rather have died in the battlefield, than to have gone through this misery.
Right or wrong: Kevin did believe that he brought this virus on himself.
His belief system never wavered there.
Kevin used to say that he and they, quote,
“they took my life the day they shot my arm; the day they gave me the virus in my body.”
During the summer of 2000, Kevin’s personal life had gone downhill, and Tina Velochi Donnelly was ready to divorce him.
When I went to say good-bye, I was shocked to learn that not one person in the residence had not eaten a meal with him in two years.
Kevin was more alone than any of you know.
He asked my husband and me not to discuss his home, while he was alive.
He did not want his research or his work to be interrupted by the actions within the residence.
Members within the residence wanted Kevin to sell his story and his research.
Unbelievable events are documented that Kevin endured, without word to many. Yet he did share with some of you.
He documented his ‘truth’ and he continued his work, his research living in conditions that would horrify some and would anger many.
** Kevin would ‘not’ sell his research.
Kevin would not sell his book, “The Panama Story” – this was a very clear line in the sand with Kevin.
**Kevin felt if he ever sold his research or his work or his book, “The Panama Story” that it would invalidate his research.
**That decision, that one decision, not to sell “The Panama Story” or his research had a ‘big’ impact on his personal life.
Kevin wanted his research and work to be remembered, not the incidents and facts that were unfolding within the residence.
He asked my husband and me – after we learned what was truly occurring in the home – to give our Word that we would remain silent until his death.
Respectfully and sadly, we agreed.
As many of you know, Kevin’s phone lines were tapped, as mine were prior to his death, and then again after his death.
Funky things started happening in Kevin’s life, as many know.
Vans went by his house, military vans.
People knocked on his door.
Hedges were run over in the front yard.
We had very strange things occurring in the middle of the night.
The lock on his office door was broken while he slept.
Documents were removed, some shredded and left inside the home, so he could see the shredded documents, work he had researched and printed.
A photograph was taken out of a picture frame in the living room, torn into pieces and left in front of the empty picture frame.
Kevin began to sleep in the chair in his office to protect his work.
` Many people who spoke to Kevin, knew that his lines were tapped –
` – individuals who phoned him from, quote, “important positions” shared that, quote, ‘others’ were concerned that he might embarrass the government, and quote,
` “they just don’t need another scandal or another situation that will come up that will embarrass them, especially involving servicemen.”
` Kevin never wanted to point fingers at the military. My brother was a scientist, he was a historian, and he was human.
` My brother only wanted the truth to be shared; importantly, the origins of Hep C, the ‘true numbers’ of people with Hep C, and the ‘true’ funding for treatments of veterans and people with Hepatitis C.
` Kevin was not one to point fingers. He wanted to record history and to move forward, to prevent the history from being repeated.
After Kevin asked me to ‘try to go’ and listen.
He did ask me to write the sequel to “The Panama Story,”
the book he wrote one chapter each night, after his diagnosis.
He was attempting to share facts and to keep readers interested in this ‘story’ learning about the origins or Hepatitis C.
Kevin wanted my book dedicated to him and – to his misery
He suffered more than any of us know.
I have hundreds of emails from him, and I know him as a proud, proud person.
I know he shared little of his suffering with me, and some people in this room have shared what he shared with you, but what he did share with me, horrified me.
And yet, he ‘found’ odd moments of humor in his illness.
He used to joke with me:
“By the time I’m famous, I’ll be dead. Kay-cer-rah, cer-rah (sic) – BOOM!!!! Tanks away!!”
It took my breath away; I was his sister.
Some of his humor – I knew he was dealing with in a bad situation,
hoping others would never live the life that he was now knowing.
I am here today to talk about the good memories, to share humor where it is appropriate.
I want to share my dedication as a family member – the same dedication that each of you have, and especially today to have walked in the streets during the rain.
I share dedication.
We are now part of a family; a bond that has been struck between us.
*Kevin believed that this bond might be the only good thing that Hepatitis C has ever done for anybody.
*Hepatitis C creates bonds with those of loved ones – and those who do not have it.
Kevin hoped his life could bring healing to others, and he ‘always’ said “that was what was important – that healing.”
We need to understand that others are working on Hepatitis C, complications and perhaps the included side effect of depression.
They have loved ones – and we can all share information with one another.
We need to work with one another.
Those who suffer with Hepatitis C and multiple side effects, which may include depression, should know that my brother, Kevin Drue Donnelly, was but one many voices that wanted to help others.
**Some of you may not know Kevin Drue Donnelly by his name, but you do know him by his plight.
You can feel his pain.
You can read about it on the Internet.
The website that LeighAnn Vogel built with Kevin, www.geocities.com/hepvet and www.captainkevindonnelly.com
continues to assist veterans and families.
She has been a pillar of strength to me, helping me to move forward; sometimes with a gentle nudge, sometimes with a hard knock right between my eyes.
LeighAnn has been very important to my family, my parents and to ‘our’ understanding events, ‘things’ that we could not have known.
During his life, many were in tune with Kevin; many were suffering.
There are special people now in hospice. There are good people dying with Hepatitis C. Kevin believed that they are good candidates, people in hospice, to work with people with Hepatitis C, especially family members.
They are good candidates for hospice care because they are familiar with the symptoms. They, better than anyone else, can comfort families and a sick, loved one with Hep C.
Why am I here?
Goldfish had better funerals.
Kevin Drue Donnelly did not have a eulogy.
Multiple phone calls were required to get the American flag placed over his casket, over the casket of Captain Donnelly.
He was given a military funeral by his wife, an army veteran and a nurse
– upon my request to the funeral home – in return for no obituary being printed – I, his sister,
had to promise the funeral home representative, per his second wife, Tina – “no obituary” to get the American flag placed on my brother’s casket the day of his funeral to the man at Dalton’s Funeral Home on Long Island, New York.
When Kevin was here, he spoke about his love for yellow roses.
Kevin loved yellow roses.
He asked me to share this, and he commented how in time, the roses would look ‘jaundice’ as Hepatitis C people look ‘jaundice’ with the progress of the disease.
Kevin Drue Donnelly used to say: “Even though we may look yellow,
we still have the beauty of a rose, and the fragrance of a rose.”
Kevin used to say:
“The yellow rose is a good symbol for Hepatitis because even though ‘we’ are sick, there’s still something beautiful about us,
and we can still blossom and grow as good people in the world.”
Towards the end, Kevin had great anger that had built up.
He felt that he had let a veteran, Les Tucker, down after the second transplant failed.
Kevin felt that he had not done enough to help Lester, a man he never met.
If he had gotten Lester the first transplant sooner – he thought Lester would have lived.
If he could have helped more, Lester would have lived.
Kevin was also very sick with Hep C.
As his depression descended with the aggressive, advancing Hepatitis, he let his hair grow long.
He could not eat.
No one within the residence shopped for him.
He was barefooted, feet too swollen for shoes.
Kevin didn’t care about anything because he said he felt “like crap all the time.”
Yet he worked day and night, researching. Kevin emailed Elizabeth Dole, the U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, The United Nations, WHO, the World Health Organization, the CDC, the VA, the media.
He emailed and emailed until the evening of his death
– until the hour he was court evicted out of the residence by his wife,
Kevin was helping others with Hepatitis C.
I understand Dr. Cecil is here today.
I keep in contact with Phyllis Beck, from Oregon,
and he was working with Phyllis and Dr. Cecil the night that Kevin ‘left’.
During the last chapter of Kevin’s life, Kevin used to type with a pencil in each hand after necrosis set in, and he could not use his fingers.
His spirit was alive, but his illness was advancing – battling with Kevin.
Kevin was now ‘engaged’ in a battle that he began to whisper about – a battle that he sadly knew he would not win.
And for the first time, he became to whisper about this and to share with a few that he knew he was “losing his battle to Hep C.”
Some of you who heard his whispers and spoke to him, are here today.
The people within the residence had issues themselves.
Many of you know about ‘the’ negative already.
I am here today because I want to share the Truth.
I want to answer the questions and to help.
This is what my brother would have wanted.
This is what I know he asked me to share.
Kevin shared with some of you; this I know to be True.
Read my book, “The Truth: He Was A Brother and a Veteran and He Died Before His Time” –
Kevin’s book and my book and all our writings are free on the Internet to assist you.
I shared what I could, respectfully.
I shared what Kevin had asked.
I shared to honor Kevin and to help many of you who did not have answers to your questions.
Additional facts and detailed details have been documented in the hands of others – they will be shared in the updated version of “The Truth.”
I choose to stay on the positive and again – I now focus on the power of commitment.
This is what my brother would have wanted.
This is what I know he asked me to share.
I would not be here had Kevin’s path been different –
– especially his path to the Hepatitis community, especially to the veterans!
While I am left with concerns about Hepatitis C, depression and his research, and I intend to honor him:
n This is who I knew my youngest brother to be.
n This is what he would have wanted, if he were still here.
The one wish Kevin had requested was to be buried at Arlington Cemetery.
It has yet to occur, maybe it will. Perhaps you can help Kevin with his wish.
Each of you is unique. Each of you is special. You can transform the world and your family, one by one, and by working together.
There is no one like you. There is no one like any of you!
Women change history. Discuss this in your kitchen.
We can share hope. Share where you can, where you may.
Women, mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, ex-wives, we can change the path. Women can change the path of this disease.
We can do it in our homes, sharing truthfully, honestly. We can share HOPE.
If each woman was to donate $2.00 helping groups that work with Hepatitis C, we would not need the large monies from drug companies.
We would change history, the future and the path of this disease, and we would be doing it for the right reasons – to prevent the history from being repeated. We can share hope together.
My final plea, to each of you, is to help me rebuild his library and his research. That was what Kevin wanted.
You can return emails. I’ll keep them anonymous.
Help me rebuild his library.
That was the one request that was ‘the most’ important to Kevin. His prediction – sadly – came true. Tina, his second wife, did not return what was most important to Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly, nor has she made one attempt to do so since his death August 5th, 2000.
If you have emails from my brother, you can return them to:
KevinsSister@artcs.com and Monette@artcs.com
I salute you each of you.
Thank you, Tricia, for asking me to speak in Washington D.C. today.
Thank you to each of you who shared yourself with Kevin when he was here. Thank you for the work you do with Hepatitis C.
You are unstoppable. You are the message now. You’re ‘the’ message.
We must move forward with life now. We move forward with life now; we never forget. We never forget. We honor, and we move forward together.
And I must really end with: “I miss my brother, Kevin Drue Donnelly. Thank you. I am proud to be Kevin’s Sister.”
(Applause) Monette: “Thank you, all.”
By: Monette Benoit, Kevin’s Sister
Presentation in Washington D.C., May 23, 2003
Why? I gave him my Word.