Its the time of the year for fireworks, good food, flag waving, drinks galore and more good food. Somewhere in the midst of celebration, we should think about veterans.
I went to the Veterans Hospital two days ago – because I am a veteran. I remember how I felt when I first saw men and women needing an artificial nose, ear, cheek – because their faces were falling apart. Dissolving. The shock I felt the first time I saw a living, functioning man with half his skull missing. His scalp was pulled over the cavern as if it made a difference. The sight made me feel faint for the entire day. Given enough time and exposure, my reaction to traumatic events and sights did diminish. Or, I acquired the ability to detach.
Two days ago, I stood in line behind another female vet who had just returned from an appointment at a different hospital. Normally, the VA will pay for transportation costs to medical appointments that they schedule. So, there she was. Standing in line for transportation support. The woman had (possibly) breast cancer so was rather traumatized after returning from her appointment. Since she was poor, she could only get back home with the transportation funds that the VA would provide. Alas, the payment window had closed – fifteen minutes before she’d arrived. The female vet started crying because she had no money/gas to get home. The people behind the window did not seem sympathetic. I’m sure they’ve seen it all before.
I heard the woman say that female vets were not being treated the same as male vets. It gave me a pang. Quickly, I shut down any emotion that threatened to come to the surface. I don’t know how her journey home was accomplished. She was still there when I left. Still wiping tears from her eyes. I don’t know why I didn’t think to offer her money out of my own pocket. I wish that I had.