WHEN OUR SOLDIERS COME HOME
Three Current Views of America’s Veteran’s Administration System
by Lauren Paulson 2012
This article reviews three circumstances of how we are treating our Veterans. It is written by a man and a Veteran, but is inspired by two women.
Rachel Maddow often advocates for more local attention to military service on her MSNBC television program. Sometimes she takes a negative shot at the Veteran’s Administration medical treatment of our Veterans.
Just now Amy Goodman, the wizard of Democracy Now, is putting on a comprehensive program about Soldier Suicides and the Vet’s Mental Health Crisis.
They Are Mere Children
It must be recognized that we send children to War. I was 17 years old when I joined the 82nd Airborne as a paratrooper during the Vietnam Era. My three years were tempered by being surrounded by more mature draftees who took me under their wing. Sending anyone into War under the age of 25 is cruel and unusual punishment. We were all mere babies, except the draftees. When I got out, I was only 20 and could not legally buy a beer in my home state. I became a man much later. Ten years later. We do this to young men because we can. We shouldn’t. These children were cannon fodder and are now part of the suicide epidemic.
My buddy served his year in Vietnam and I served him during his year at a VA hospital getting treatment for PTSD and Agent Orange. I saw first hand how the VA medical personnel took tender, even loving care of him. They let me hang out on the medical ward floor where my buddy was treated. There are no words that can express the caring envelope where he resided for that treatment. I also saw first hand the experience he had in Vietnam because I served as a fly-on-the wall as he laid out that year in detail as part of his treatment. No words can describe the horrors of War and his war.
A Volunteer Driver of Veterans
Recently, I served as a volunteer driver to take veterans of all ages and Wars back and forth to their medical appointments at the local VA hospital. This VA hospital is located in a different city from where I watched my buddy get treated for PTSD and other things, recounted above.
While the conversations that I had with the Vets, to and fro, are not necessarily confidential, I treat them so anyway. There is no doubt the treatment Vietnam Vets and others received back then was wanting. That has all changed. This fact, of good and competent treatment now, was confirmed to me by my passengers time and time again. As a volunteer Veteran’s driver I was allowed to hear all their unvarnished tales. We are giving our Veterans absolutely stellar treatment in the VA medical system. A single payer system.
When one walks in a VA hospital there is a respectful atmosphere of caring that is palpable every where one goes in the huge monolith. Soldiers complain about everything. It goes with the territory. There few complaints here and now about their medical care at the VA hospital.
I could not leave you to go to my own experience without telling you my favorite driver story. It was the last run of the day and this fragile, elderly woman nudged herself into the front seat beside me. We had not left the compound before I learned she was a WAC during World War II. She was 92 and served in the South Pacific. She recently fell, broke her hip and is now on the mend. The ride was too short for me to learn much about her experiences, but this I know. She, as all of my passengers; had an elegance of character that one can touch, feel and taste. Our American Veterans.
Finally, an experience of today. Parked with a full load of Veterans for a last passenger to fill the last seat, a young man of color came up to my open van window. (The van is resplendent in red, white, and blue with gaudy Veteran’s markings.) He angrily announced he was an Iraq Veteran with PTSD problems. As the driver, I sort of regarded myself as the obligatory responder. Beating me to the punch was a Vietnam Veteran passenger who verbally grabbed the young Vet by the lapels and asked him if he had sought treatment pointing to the VA hospital that visibly looms over our fair city. A few more admonishments from the Vietnam Vet to this young man, quickly cooled his jets and may have even made a rescued convert.
The Economic Meltdown
Five years ago the Economic Meltdown ensnared me into the downward web. It was at the exact time I became eligible for nearly full coverage within the VA system. During these last five years I have had two major procedures and several other visits to my Asian VA doctor for minor issues. Each time I was able to get an appointment within days if not weeks. Never a wait either --getting the appointment or in the waiting room. The care was not just completely competent, but respectfully caring as well. And I didn’t even see combat. claurenpaulson2012 firstname.lastname@example.org bulletinsfromaloha.org