Vet with terminal cancer battles to get ramp at his home

An undated courtesy photo of U.S. Army veteran John Biermaker.


BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — John Biermaker is a 68-year-old, who left Union High School in 1968 to serve in the U.S. Army at the height of the Vietnam War until 1970.

He says he was in Vietnam when the toxic defoliant Agent Orange was sprayed by the ton over the South Asian countryside. Forty years later…

“That’s what his cancer is from, Agent Orange,” said his wife Amy Biermaker.

The cancer appeared in 2012, went into remission, but returned last month.

“That means its stage 4 cancer and there’s nothing they can do for it. So, that’s where we sit,” Amy Biermaker said.

The cancer has made him weak and the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from which he suffers has all combined to make him wheelchair-bound. The entrance to his Byron Township mobile home in Cutler Estates, off South Division Avenue near 60th Street, is about four feet off the ground.

“That means every time I have to take him somewhere, I have to call and see if I can get somebody to come over here and help me get him out of the house, because I can’t do it,” Amy Biermaker said.

The couple says they had a friend willing to make a wooden ramp, but the park requires schematics, a licensed contractor and approval from the township.

“He can’t go outside. He can’t even go outside to enjoy being outside in the sunshine,” said Amy Biermaker.

They then contacted the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Battle Creek, which offered to put an aluminum ramp on the home. The Biermakers say they were told by park management the ramp had to be wood.

“If one of them needed a ramp, they wouldn’t be fighting over aluminum or metal or wood, they would have it in,” Amy Biermaker said.

They say for two months, they have not been able to get the ramp installed and they have numerous appointments and treatments.

“It’s horrible. I mean, this is the way they treat him,” said Amy Biermaker

John Biermaker says he just wants to enjoy some small pleasurers in his final days.

“I’ve got 11 kids and 20-some grandkids and I can’t go see them. I can’t do nothing,” he said. “I just want to be able to get out of my house and enjoy the world. What I’ve got left of it.”

24 Hour News 8 talked to the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs who says they were told that the park would allow the ramp and it should be built very soon.

Amy Biermaker says she told those involved that she was talking to 24 Hour News 8. Asked what she thinks made them change their minds: “Talking to you guys.”

Repeated attempts to contact the owners of the park, Sun Communities out of Southfield, were not returned.