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Published: Monday, 7/31/2006

Vietnam vet helped the postwar weary

Michael A. Flowers, 58, a Vietnam War veteran, who after returning from the war dedicated much of his life to helping lift fellow sick, homeless, and jobless veterans out of despair, died Saturday in St. Anne Mercy Hospital from complications of lung cancer.

Mr. Flowers, an infantryman and a mechanic who enlisted in the Army in 1968, was stationed in Vietnam until 1970. After returning from the war, he was very disheartened by what he saw of the treatment of fellow veterans, his wife, Gina, said. He was one of the founders of the Toledo chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America.

"He became very interested in veterans affairs and especially Vietnam veterans and spent much of his time trying to help veterans that were down on their luck," she said.

Mr. Flowers was especially noted as a Vietnam veterans activist by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), when she entered his name in the Congressional Record, "for being an inspiring leader and articulate spokesman for Vietnam veterans in the Toledo area," said his wife.

She recalled that her husband was one of the instrumental people who arranged for a Toledo stop for the Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall memorial and was named to the National Board of Vietnam Veterans of America in 1983.

In 1987, Mr. Flowers testified before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Housing, chaired by Miss Kaptur at the time, in attempts to spearhead a program that would address housing and employment needs for veterans.

"He was a very giving person," his wife said. "He gave of his time and energy so that other people could also have a better life."

Born in Toledo, Mr. Flowers grew up in West Toledo, where he attended St. Catherine's Elementary School and then went on to Start High School, from which he graduated in 1967. He married the former Gina Mitchell on June 24, 1972, and they settled in West Toledo.

Mrs. Flowers said that her husband became especially involved in veterans affairs during the first Gulf War and its aftermath. "He not only formed a support group for soldiers and their families, but also spoke to many students about the experience of a war for soldiers and their families," she said.

In 1990, Mr. Flowers helped organize a Christmas dinner for Desert Shield support group families - an organization he had helped to found- and was one of the organizers who designed the Operation Desert Shield dog tags that became popular among military families in the area during the first Gulf War.

A lease manager for 14 years in the sales department at Kistler Ford Inc., he had battled cancer since 2003 and had been through several rounds of chemotherapy and surgeries.

Surviving are his wife of 34 years, Gina; mother, Petrina; and sisters, Barbara, and Joyce Brink. Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. in the Walker Funeral Home tomorrow, with a prayer service at 7:30 p.m. A funeral Mass will be held Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in Little Flower Church. The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

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