Soldier's battle continues years after his war ended
December 22, 2003
Roberta-- It seems everybody in the two-traffic light town of Roberta, Georgia agrees, he's one in a million. He's also one in 560,000.
He is David Bailey, one of more than a half million Americans who likely will die in the next year from cancer. David's disease didn't come from an unhealthy lifestyle or unlucky genes. His cancer came from his service to our country.
You see, a little more than 30 years ago, Chief Warrant Officer David Bailey, was a decorated Army helicopter pilot. He spent 1,500 hours in Huey helicopters flying missions in the Vietnam War.
"The good Lord blessed me and kept his hand on me, and I made it through," says David.
He also spent a lot of time around Agent Orange. "They'd come out and spray from the back of C-123 airplanes and you could wipe the agent orange off of you," he remembers. “But at the time we were told that it was okay."
Agent orange was a chemical that killed jungle vegetation. It's also killed many of the men who came in contact with it. David was diagnosed with prostate cancer seven years ago. "A lot of us that are paying the price now."
He's had surgeries and years of brutal, even experimental, chemotherapy and radiation. But the disease is still growing. "It just keeps getting worse and worse."
Cancer has spread to David's back, his hips, and his lungs, even his brain. "Now we've just about gotten to the point where I'm just, you know, waiting."
Before cancer ravaged his body, David proudly served in the Army for 20 years. Then he and his wife Pat settled in Roberta, "We just decided to come back home," she says.
Chief Bailey became Mr. Bailey, a technology teacher at Crawford County Middle School. David wanted to do more. "A guy asked me to run for office." After two terms on the city council, Mr. Bailey became Mayor Bailey. "This is my third term."
Most every day he still walks from his house right across the street to city hall, but it's not as often as he would like. He can't devote the same energy he once did, but city councilors say they'd never consider accepting his resignation.
By most accounts, David has done as much for Roberta as anyone ever has. "He's really for the people of Roberta, the entire city, not any one group," says City Councilman Erv Patton.
"He's always anxious to come up with new ideas and get things done," Assistant Clerk Gale Thaxton says.
He's one in a million, seems everybody here says so. "Always up, always kept you up, kept you going," librarian Shyrell Owen says.
"He's an inspiration to all of us," adds teacher John Douglas.
"He's just a number one guy. We love him," City Clerk Vicki Grant says.
He's also one in 973 people who live in the one-zip code town of Roberta, Georgia. A place that's better off because of David Bailey. "I gotta give thanks to the good Lord for all the blessings he's put on me."
One man of faith, one husband, one father soldiering on, another casualty of a war we thought ended 30 years ago, a war David Bailey still fights every day at home in the one-city park town of Roberta, Georgia.
More than a year ago, doctors said David Bailey probably wouldn't make it to see last Christmas. They were wrong. This Christmas, David, his wife of 31-years, Pat, daughter Jenny, who's in the Air Force, and daughter Katie, a student at Valdosta State, will celebrate together in Roberta.
One more thing, despite his illness, David says he doesn't regret his military service a bit, and he'd do it all again.