Jason Hinson, a veteran of the Iraq War stricken with cancer, likely felt blanketed by love when he received a Quilt of Valor during a bingo benefit that also raised more than $13,000 toward his medical expenses.
As Hinson, 38, stood near the entrance of the bingo hall at Veterans Memorial Park, site of Friday night’s event, he seemed amazed at the people arriving in droves and standing in line for games that wouldn’t begin for two more hours.
All this resulted from a group of caring individuals who had heard about Hinson’s battle with multiple myeloma and decided to do something to help.
“It shocked me,” Hinson said of his reaction to learning of that gesture.
“I didn’t have any idea it was going on,” added the Army National Guard veteran, who was “really appreciative” to everyone involved.
Teresa Wilson, a organizer for the benefit, was busy processing the incoming bingo players. Not only were they filing in to help a veteran in need, they also would get the chance to win a number of great prizes donated by local businesses.
“All proceeds go to Jason,” Wilson said in between ticket sales. She later would report that the event “raised somewhere around $13,750.” Mentioning all the merchants who gave items and the people buying bingo tickets, she said on behalf of organizers, “We’d just like to say a big thank you.”
But the proceeds from bingo and concession sales weren’t the only results of Friday night’s benefit in Mount Airy. A special item Hinson took away from the gathering was the handmade Quilt of Valor presented to him by Faye Seal of the Surry Quilters Guild.
The quilt, which Seal designed, includes flags, American eagles and other patriotic imagery liberally adorned in red, white and blue. It was made during April and May.
“Our guild has produced approximately 35,” Seal said of the Quilts of Valor. “We can either send them overseas or give them locally.”
Also on hand for the quilt presentation was Mount Airy Mayor Deborah Cochran, who said it was a “distinct privilege” to honor the local veteran in such a way.
On the surface, one might not think Jason Hinson is suffering from multiple myeloma, a cancer that originates in the plasma cells of bone marrow. The disease, which is more common to men, involves collections of abnormal plasma cells accumulating in the marrow, where they interfere with the production of normal blood cells.
While Hinson looks healthy, perhaps even more striking is the positive attitude he exhibits — not only regarding his illness, but the circumstances under which he is believed to have contracted multiple myeloma. That was during 14 months of service in Iraq when Hinson, who was an engineer with the Army National Guard, was exposed to hazardous materials dug up while he worked with Special Forces personnel.
“The armed forces cannot pinpoint that was the exact place he got it from,” said Hinson’s wife Angela. “But he was around burn pits and all of this stuff.”
She added, “They’re just saying that he got it from over there, because in order to be his age and have multiple myeloma to the stage he has, that he’d have to be around … a large amount of radiation” or something such as insecticides.
“The only place he was in was Iraq,” Angela Hinson said of the possible locations where her husband could have been exposed.
After returning from Iraq, the veteran learned he was sick after feeling “something give” last year while playing golf, which prompted a visit to a chiropractor. Bone and rib pain are among the symptoms of multiple myeloma.
“He started going numb,” and now “has lesions all over his body from head to toe,” his wife said.
“He’s went through radiation; he’s still on chemotherapy.”
However, Hinson has met his illness head-on and has been able to return to his job in the shipping department of Insteel Industries in Mount Airy. “He went back to work three weeks ago so he wouldn’t lose his insurance,” Angela Hinson said.
“It’s been a very tough situation,” she added.
“Financially, we’ve been blessed,” Mrs. Hinson said, with help coming from various sources including the Hinsons’ church, Snow Hill Baptist in Dobson, and several other area congregations. Friday’s fundraiser was also “such a blessing,” she said.
“We didn’t even ask for help.”
The Hinsons are hoping the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will provide some assistance due to the apparent service-related illness occurring in Iraq. They are the parents of a teen-age son and daughter.
Angela Hinson said one of the hardest parts of their situation involves the uncertainty regarding whether the bone-marrow transplant will be successful and prolong her husband’s life. “It’s like we’re in war again.”
In the meantime, the veteran is remaining upbeat and appreciates all those who have assisted in different ways. “People’s been really good,” he commented Friday night.
Hinson’s wife said her husband harbors no resentment over becoming sick after serving his country.
“He’s very patriotic.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.