Many of us are familiar with the Scott and Mark Kelly study that is now going on to determine the impact of a year in space versus the year on earth of these identical twins. Twins have long been of interest to researchers and Michigan State University has a twin registry that details the value of such studies.
For 30 years, Vietnam combat veterans and identical twins Lloyd and Lowell Perry, of Troy, have been participating in a series of studies to determine how people age as they grow older.
Lloyd is fond of proclaiming that he was delivered five minutes before Lowell, and as the older brother, he is quick to assume his place at center stage.
Born on July 4, 1947, both men dropped out of Graham High School prior to graduation and went to work at Piqua Engineering. They were drafted into the U.S. Army in August of 1966 and sent to basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Early in their training, they and four other soldiers were ordered to report for the GED exam. They did, and of the six who reported, the twins were the only two who passed.
From Fort Benning, it was on to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for artillery training, followed by a 30-day leave and then it was off to Vietnam.
Lowell reports, “I wasn’t happy about it, but I didn’t have no choice,” and Lloyd says, “I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I didn’t know what I was gonna do with my life. People in Ohio weren’t saying a whole lot about the war.”
Lowell rejoins, “I think Ohio folks probably supported the war until later. It heated up in May of 1970 after the killings at Kent State.”
They arrived in Vietnam on Jan. 4, 1967, and they alternate supplying me with information, “Three hundred sixty-five days. You always knew you were gonna leave. We turned 19 in Vietnam and our birthday was just another day — wake up 120 degrees in the jungle. Except for the monsoons when I thought we’d freeze to death.
“We were at a replacement camp at Long Binh. What that means is that so many were dying and seriously wounded. At one point, 75 percent of a unit was dead or wounded with six guns and not enough men to run two. We were setting up 155-millimeter guns and those shells must have weighed 80 or 90 pounds. In all that mud when we’d fire, that gun would slide back two to four feet and we’d dig ‘em out and fire again.”
They left Vietnam a year later and one day received letters from Harvard University asking if they would be willing to participate in a twin study. Their response, “Not interested.” More letters came, and they agreed to do it.
Lowell says, “Why not? For 30 years now, every five years they pay for us to fly to California, put us up in a nice Sheraton at La Jolla. The guests there are all about golf, and we kind of stand out in our racing jackets (Stock car racing at Shady Bowl has been an important part of their lives).
Lloyd adds, “Participating may do something beneficial to future soldiers,” and Lowell agrees.
Both men describe the assessments at San Diego State University that are a part of the study. With glee, they start providing examples:
“They’ll give us four sheets of paper and ask how many designs we can make with them or a piece of paper with nine objects and ask which one is flawed.
“They’ll tell us we have a dollar and we’re going to a yard sale where books are 25 cents and ask us how many books we can buy or say you have two 50-cent pieces and are buying books at a yard sale, books that are 25 cents, how many books can you buy.
“They check our physical movements by having us get up and down from a chair.”
“They check our vital signs and do an MRI scan of our brains.”
I ask about their health and learn that the identical twins are no longer identical. When they were drafted into the Army, they were 5 feet, 7 inches, and weighed about 140 pounds. That is the same with Lowell, but Lloyd has had triple bypass, wears a hearing aid, and weighs 120 pounds. (Maybe it’s the stress of being the big brother and having to always look out for Lowell).
Lloyd’s disability check from the government is $577 per month (30 percent for exposure to Agent Orange and 10 percent for his hearing loss).
I ask, “How can that be when you were together in Vietnam?”
The twins laugh and one says, “That’s the VA.”
They delight in giving me one additional bit of data. “You know how much we were making when we left the Army as Spec 4s two years after induction?”
My response, “I don’t have a clue.”
Together they say, “$177 per month.”
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.