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Hospice honors vet who served in Vietnam

Provided photos: Earl Schmidt, director of the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency, presents a certificate to Ed Ball on Monday as part of Hospice’s “We Honor Veterans Program.”

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 August 2018 at 9:55 am

Ed Ball, who is battling lymphoma, served 24 years in military before retiring to Point Breeze

POINT BREEZE – Ed Ball doesn’t regret being in the combat infantry in Vietnam, where he was shot at and exposed to Agent Orange.

One bullet hit him in the scalp. He was in the infirmary for 10 days before rejoining his unit.

“I was right back in the jungle,” he said. “I know it sounds unrealistic now, but if your injuries weren’t that severe you went back out in the field. You really had to be shot up.”

Ed Ball moved to Point Breeze about seven years ago to be near the Oak Orchard River and Lake Ontario so he could go fishing. He is holding a large Chinook salmon. He said the area is fortunate to have such a bountiful big fish.

Ball, 71, was awarded a Purple Heart for his injuries. He earned numerous medals in a 24-year military career. After two years in Vietnam, Ball served in the National Guard and then the Army Reserve. He was a rifle instructor for about 12 years, training many soldiers in rifle marksmanship.

He recalled the night of Oct. 31, 1968 when he was in a firefight at night and was shot in the scalp. He is thankful for nearly 50 more years of life after that incident.

“I was lucky and very fortunate,” he said. “I’m very lucky to be here.”

He stayed in the military while working at Lapp Insulators in Le Roy. He was a millwright with that company for 44 years.

The Batavia native is a life-long outdoorsman. He found a paradise at Pont Breeze for fishing and deer hunting. He moved to the Oak Orchard River about seven years ago with his wife Kim. They were right on the river and Ball had a dock with his boat, “Bobber Down.” He often went fishing with his family, including two granddaughters.

Ball two years ago felt severe pain in his stomach and was taken by ambulance during the middle of the night to Strong Memorial Hospital. He would be diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma. He has endured four rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant. He has done everything he can do to beat the disease.

Through it all, he wouldn’t be denied the chance to fish – until about a month ago. Ball can’t keep food down and he said the end is likely near.

He is receiving hospice care at his home. A year ago he moved from the river to a one-story house on Lakeshore Road that looks out on Lake Ontario. Ball likes the view but he preferred the spot on the river. “There was a lot more going on,” he said about the Oak Orchard. He moved to be in a house without stairs.

Ball was awarded a Purple Heart after being shot in Vietnam. Ten days after a bullet pierced his scalp, he was back with his unit in the jungle.

On Monday he was surprised by Hospice and the local Veterans Service Agency when they presented him with three certificates of appreciation for his military service. It’s part of Hospice’s “We Honor Veterans Program.”

“It was quite a surprise,” Ball said about the recognition on Monday.

He reflected on his military career, where he said exposure to Agent Orange is the culprit for him getting cancer later in life. Despite that he said he wouldn’t take back his military service.

He stayed for 24 years, wanting to teach his skills to others.

“I felt as though I had duties and I was very good at what I did, and I could keep some kids alive,” he said.

Ball started fishing at the Oak orchard River in the 1970s. He has caught many salmon topping 30 pounds, including a 38-pounder. His phone is filled with photos of him with salmon, trout, walleye and even a shark he caught in Florida. He also has many photos of his family with big fish.

“I love it,” he said about fishing. “It’s very relaxing. The fishing here is phenomenal if you know how to fish.”

Ball also has been a pilot for 28 years, flying out of the Le Roy Airport.

He said is grateful for a full life and the for extra time that he said has been possible through the care from the doctors and staff at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center in Rochester.

“The Wilmot Cancer Center did an excellent job trying to save my life,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be alive today.”

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