I went to the VA today. My better half had an appointment so I accompanied him. It’s not a long journey – we only live a few blocks from the V.A. Center. Our town is very small and the wonderful sandstone buildings were built 100 years ago. The Hospital, Dom, Canteen and other buildings are scattered neatly across the mountain top in a very serene setting. The snow was falling gently as we drove towards the hospital for the appointment. I smiled as I gazed upon a beautiful Buck lying under a Pine tree watching the cars drive by. This is a peaceful place. There is a large park in the middle that my Black labs love to run through chasing whatever imaginary animals they see. The cemetery is always pristine and today, with the snow falling, the flag looked brighter than usual.
Once inside everything seems to change. For such a small town the VA is always a very busy place. Following my usual routine I grabbed a magazine, sat down and waited with my husband. Only a few minutes passed when my back began to hurt. Walking relieves the pain so I decided to do just that – walk around the hospital.
There were Veterans from every walk of life. The elderly World War II veterans were drinking coffee and talking about the weather. Laughter rang down the hall as they told jokes about their wives. I passed Vietnam Veterans proudly wearing yellow and red on their hats and shirts. A young woman maybe in her thirties (at the most) struggled with her wheelchair by the pharmacy. A young man, who had lost his arm, saw her and gallantly helped her into the position she wanted. All the men and women that I passed on my walk had one thing in common. One thing that I had overlooked the many times I have walked these halls. No matter how much mental or physical pain they were in they all looked at me and smiled. They all said “Good Morning”. They all had the ability to reach beyond themselves and think about someone else. This is what makes them all heroes. Although I think the word hero is somewhat of a cliché; hero is the only word that comes to mind at this time. I am reminded that integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking. These men and women are the walking definition of integrity.
In the ER Waiting Room I could not help but take note of the tired faces of worried family members as they continued to glance towards closed doors. Doors that they prayed would open with good news. I have sat outside those doors before as have hundreds of military wives, daughters, and sisters have, fighting tears, gaining strength only through acceptance of the situation.
My mind went back many years ago when I would accompany my Dad to the VA Hospital. He had been in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I felt a tinge of sadness mixed with joy. My Dad and my brother both died in VA Hospitals. They were given the best of care but there is a Power Greater Than Ourselves that is in charge no matter how badly we may want to have things our way. We often forget that the caregivers work long hours and do the best they can with what they have to work with. Maybe we just need someone to blame.
Now as an adult walking the halls of the VA hospital took on a completely different meaning. I noticed so many things that I took for granted growing up in a military family. In these halls were the men and woman that have served this country unselfishly in a way that only they can understand. There is a bond that needs no words.
I continued my walk around the hospital until I reached my husband again. As I sighed and sat in the seat beside him he asked, “Are you ok?” My answer, “Yes, I feel safe.” He gave me a puzzled look at first then looked around the room and smiled. “Of course you do.”
If you do not believe that Veterans should be honored – take a walk around your local VA Hospital. If you leave without feeling a sense of gratitude towards the people you encounter than there is something deeply missing in you.
Everyday is Veteran’s Day.