After all, she has had family members die of the effects of the Vietnam-era herbicide Agent Orange, and others killed in action.
"It’s about them"” she said, in a reference to their honor, seated at her desk in her office at Vietnam Veterans Family Assistance Center Inc., the organization she started to help American veterans of all wars to file claims for disability compensation.
Since 2007 she has been an accredited agent, as literally thousands of veterans seeking help with disability claims have come through her door, filling her filing cabinets with manila folders. Her professional certification notwithstanding, her efforts are provided free unless she wins an appeal, in which case she earns money that goes back into her organization.
As for Petro, who dug out a Polaroid picture of herself as a young war widow, looking like the kid she was, some contacts made through her center also recently provided information about her first husband’s death and his work with Special Forces in Vietnam.
A framed box with a Purple Heart image and a picture of Cleland hangs on a wall in her office.
"I hope this is a legacy of him"” she said.
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