I went to the Veterans Administration hospital yesterday.

This is my first post on DocuDharma. It is cross posted from a DailyKos essay (of Fri Nov 09, 2007 at 10:51:54 AM EST)

http://www.dailykos.com/story/… I have about 30 diaries on DailyKos. I will not be cross posting them all (that’s good for you). Only the ones I think were my better ones and/or got good response. I want to thank my friend “boadicaea” for turning me on to this site and also her assistance in the last few weeks with helping me with my disjointed, repetitive and lengthy wtiting style. I have read a lot on Docudharma in the last 24hrs and really like what I read and the atmosphere of the community. Expect to see me here daily. I look forward to the day when Docudharma has the membership of sites like DailyKos (150K members), and I know it will, and I can then be an “old timer” with an ID under 1100-:)

I went to the Veterans Administration hospital yesterday for a routine appointment that was to be just a quick check-in with my doc & off I go.

The main point of this diary is about our military personnel. The unfair situations they are faced with & the amazing commitment of many. There are other issues within my blabbering. It wouldn’t be a TominMaine diary without some rambling & personal items wrapped around the issues.

I have an appointment at the VA about once a month between my many doctors. I had to see my doctor who monitors my TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury from an auto accident in 1999. I’ve been learning a bit about TBI law and I’m even considering seeking some compensation for my injury. It’s affected my life so much!

Without VA health & prescription (22 meds) coverage, my SSDI & my wife’s meager wages (she has no health insurance), we might be living in the attic of my mom’s house. With myself, my wife, 2 dogs & a cat, it would be cramped in that drafty, smelly attic in an old New England house built over 100 years ago. The attic would be better than the cellar with the stone walls & it looks like something out of “Silence of the Lambs”. I also know my mom would push me from mild bi-polar disorder to complete insanity.

I am luckier than the 47 million uninsured who could face such horrors and worse.

None of my many medical issues are life threatening. They are an inconvenience to living “normal”, I am always in at least some pain, they are often frustrating and a pain in the ass, but we all have our cross to bare and I don’t want to trade mine for anyone else’s. I know how to live with mine and remain happy and content.

Because of the several benefits I am entitled to, I am much luckier than many millions in our country. I take some time each day to give thought to this fact. Usually during my early morning regiment. Today though, I spent my morning time thinking more about my “simple” visit yesterday to the VA hospital. BTW, my pets are part of my whole morning routine also.  

Every morning when I get up, I am greeted by my two dogs and my cat. They rise with great anticipation of going out and then getting fed. They all three shadow me around as I go through my morning rituals of about 15 minutes. They know this proceeds their pleasures. When done with my routine, I pour my first cup of coffee, and to my pet’s delight, we head out the door. They do what animals do first thing in the morning and then they wander through the woods a little. While they do that, I view the early morning here in the deep woods of Maine. The quiet and serenity allows me some time to think about things.

My cat goes out with us each morning for this daily routine. She thinks she is a dog. When she is out alone, she always comes home when I call her. In the afternoon, if I’m feeling o.k., we take a walk in and around the woods. She always comes on these walks with the dogs and I. When she is out alone and wants to come in, she paws the screen door so it sounds like someone knocking softly. If I don’t hear it, the dogs will start barking and let me know. Like me, she is not “normal” and kinda unique. Some photos for your viewing pleasure.

ALL THREE ON A WALK.

http://i239.photobucket.com/al…

PENZA (named after a city in Russia)

http://i239.photobucket.com/al…

WALTER

http://i239.photobucket.com/al…

OREO

http://i239.photobucket.com/al…

Reflecting on my trip to the VA yesterday, I thought of the people I spoke to, the things I learned and the emotions I felt. I thought maybe this would make a decent diary. You can decide that.

While I waited to see my doctor, I got a flu shot. The guy giving shots was a volunteer. He is also an active duty Major in the Army. Since I had a little time to wait for my doctor, we talked about numerous military and political issues.

He told me about an Army General that he knew who was an expert on the middle east. When Bush was planning the attack on Iraq, this General was one of the few with the guts to adamantly and quite vocally disagree with attacking Iraq. He gave Bush a kinda “in your face” explanation of the realities of attacking Iraq. He predicted exactly what is happening today. He said the only way this wouldn’t happen was if we dedicated 600,000 troops to Iraq and we would probably have to keep most of them there for many years. That General “retired” a month later. They are not all Petraus. Rest assured, before he said his piece, that General knew what the results would be. He still said it with all that was on the line for he and his family. That’s a big set of balls with a dose of courage and some honor thrown in. That General was a true commander and patriot who cared about his troops. God, I wish I was there for that.

The Major and I got around to talking about a personal issue that is important to me and I think all Americans should know about it. We talked about our soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan returning with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).

Since I have TBI and so do many soldiers returning from Iraq/Afghanistan (65%), I have researched this problem extensively. Another major side effect that has been caused by Bushco’s debacle.

I was very glad to hear from the Major about a new VA program that is to be SOP (standard operating procedure) at all VA hospitals. Every soldier returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is put through a battery of tests for PTSD, mental health issues and TBI to see if they need help or are fit to return to the front line. About fucking time this was done.

I thought the Major’s information was excellent news. During my research, I read that the military was working on this testing but I had not heard that it had been implemented.

It was a little ironic to have this conversation yesterday with the Major. After many hours of research, on the morning of 11/02 (1 wk ago today) I posted a diary about TBI and our returning Vets (I will cross post to Docudharma). This is an issue our nation should be concerned about. The impact on our military capabilities could be devastating. TBI has become known as the “signature injury” of this war. The term TBI will soon be as well known as the term PTSD. Some estimate that there could be as many as 65% of Vets returning from Iraq/Afghanistan suffer from TBI.

Besides the good news of the testing, there was one other thing the Major told me that had a strong emotional impact on me.

The word is getting around amongst the troops about possible ways to “fool” the testing.

NO, not to fake that they have these illness’, just the opposite. Some soldiers who may have PTSD, mental health issues or TBI, want to “pass” the test and be allowed to return to the front. The military is now aware of this and is fortunately making adjustments to make it more difficult for them to “fool” the testing.

I know, this seems pretty fucking crazy to “civilians”. I think maybe you would have to have served to truly understand this irrational behavior.

The majority of these young men and women don’t speak much about the politics of the war. Few talk much about if it is right or wrong. Many believe these things are none of their business.

“mine is not to reason why, mine is but to do and die.” Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This is in spite of the fact that they all know exactly what is being said at home in the USA about the war and the government.  

Each of these men and women stood in front of an American flag and a military officer told them to raise their right hand and repeat after me: “I, (NAME), do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God”.

The vast majority in the military don’t take this oath lightly. It becomes a part of them even if many can not repeat it word for word. Their commitment to the military is a matter of honor, pride and a personal promise to themselves, their nation and their God. Mostly, there is a deep sense of loyalty to their fellow soldiers that impacts much of their bahavior.

If only 50% of our politicians took their oath of office as seriously and deeply as the majority of these brave men and women do, then our country wouldn’t be in the fucking mess it is in right now. Then again, most politicians today don’t have the morals, ethics, courage, personal pride or loyalty to their fellow workers or constituents of most in the military.

As stated, even more compelling for those who want to “fool” the test, is a sense of responsibility to those “friends” they left at the battlefront. A felling of guilt for leaving their comrades in arms. A desire to return to help protect those who helped to protect them.

These men and women make huge sacrifices for you and I and our country. When, where or why there is a war is irrelevant when we are talking about the individuals who serve. When talking about those who defend our country against real enemies or some moron politicians perceived, imaginary, manufactured or fictitious enemies, our military men and women must do their duty. Regardless of the stupidity and futility of Iraq, these individuals deserve our respect and appreciation. They need us to speak out for them. Most absolutely will not say negative things about the futility of their mission or the ineptitude of Bushco while they are on active duty. It just is not done by most regardless of what they think, it is blasphemy. Most of them know the realities of this insanity. It is also punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) which also applies to most for two years after “actice duty” ends and they are “on reserve”. They need us to fight for the benefits they earned and deserve. They need us to fight for the quality medical care they deserve when they come home. They need us to do everything we can to end this war. Most importantly, we must insist, demand and ensure the politicians we elect support all these things our soldiers deserve.

Because I live in Maine with such a small population (1.2million), I don’t see a lot of Iraq/Afghanistan Vets when I go to the VA. I probably average seeing one each time I go to the VA hospital. I always try to speak with each one I see.

I told you about the Major who was just giving me a flu shot yesterday. We ended up having a 20 minute wide ranging conversation that educated me and affected me. By coincidence we discussed an issue very important to me that I posted a diary about that very issue just a week before. This was not something I expected when going to a simple appointment at the VA yesterday.

 

I will tell you a couple more “unexpected” events that had an emotional impact on me yesterday at the VA.

All I was supposed to be doing at the VA yesterday was a routine visit.

After my flu shot and seeing my doctor, my wife and I headed on our way out. I thought I had gotten all I would be getting (physical, mental, emotional, educational) before leaving that building.

I had to stop at the bathroom before our 2.5 hour drive home. There was a “kid” in the bathroom. He had one of those baby faces, round and youthful. I thought he looked about 18. I asked my wife later and she said she thought early 20’s. Well, the older I get, the younger others look, so, my wife and my different perceptions makes sense since she is 10 years younger than me.

Baby face and I talked for a little while. He just got back a few weeks ago from 18 months in Afghanistan. 547 days of hell and carnage and death. 13,128 hours of thinking about how not to get killed and/or how to kill someone else. 787,680 minutes of this young mans life gone, wasted and pissed away for lies, deceit, ego, money and stupidity (to name just a few).

He was not even active duty military. He was national guard. He was at the VA hospital for a “review” of his 18 month deployment. After that was done he would be “prepped” to return to Afghanistan!!

He talked about the men and women in Afghanistan feeling forgotten. Most feel all the attention is given to those in Iraq and nobody recognizes their efforts and sacrifices. We talked about the irony of this since the war on terrorism started in Afghanistan. The war should have remained there instead of going into Iraq which may have been the stupidest possible thing we could do in regards to fighting terrorism.

Baby face didn’t volunteer any information about what he saw, thought, felt or believed, but he answered all my questions. Some things relating to politics he said “We don’t think about that stuff”.

He knew I had served and because of the respectful way he spoke to me, I felt it would not be inappropriate to give him my two cents. I told him to be sure he told the testers the truth and tell them everything he thought and felt. We talked about how close he had been to several IED’s and what TBI was. I told him that from how close he said he was to several blasts, from what I have learned, it is possible he could have mild TBI and not even know it. I told him to make sure the testers knew how close he had been to several IED’s. He seemed to take it all in. Maybe he was thinking, leave me alone you old fool.

When we finished our talk, I shook his hand and I told him I appreciated his service and told him to stay safe. His return response was typically military “thank you Sir”.

When we left the restroom he respectfully opened the door for me and as I walked out, I saw this pretty young “girl” standing in the hall not far from my wife. She was baby face’s wife.

Before 1999 I was a tough guy (at least I acted like I was). I didn’t care about many people. I was often gruff and abrasive. I didn’t show my emotions. Emotions are a weakness in the corporate world. I went toe to toe with teamster stewards and I played by the corporate cut throat rules.  

Today, I am a big emotional softy and quick to weep at others plights. Never for myself..?.. I cry at movies and TV shows. I openly and often express my feelings for those I love. I am an open book and will tell almost anybody anything about me, good or bad. I was told by Maine’s best neurologists and neuro-psychiatrists that increased empathy, heightened emotional reactions and tendencies toward being completely open and honest are common traits in those with TBI. Maybe everyone should be given a good whack on the noggin-:)  

When my wife and I walked away from baby face and his wife, I had to walk down a side hallway as I began to weep. I stood for about ten minutes or so trying to stop and compose myself. My wife stood behind me with her hand on my back. She didn’t say a word. She knew not to ask. She knew not to speak. She knew to simply wait until I was ready, willing and able to tell her.

My wife is another wonderful gift I have been blessed with. The best woman I have ever met and far better than I deserve. As kind and sweet as they come and that is combined with beauty and intellect. More amazing is that she fully understands this “crazy” man whose dichotomies baffle most.

I wept because of the useless waste of this “boys” life and the many, many more like him. I wept because our brave young soldiers are not fighting and dying for a just cause but rather a useless and un winnable war. A war we should never have entered into. Yesterday I spoke to one of the numbers we hear (160,000), I saw his wife, I felt his pain. I only had two choices, weep or choke someone. Unfortunately, neither Bush or Cheney were around. I doubt they spend much time at VA hospitals, they are too busy filling them.  

In silence, my wife and I began the five minute walk to the building exit. I again thought I got everything (physical, mental, emotional, educational) I would get at that VA hospital yesterday. Again I was wrong.

Because I was looking down to hide my watery eyes, I didn’t see a man coming towards us who proceeded to walk past us. As he passed, I saw his spit shined boots. I raised my head and turned to see a tall man in camo fatigues about 15 feet from us and walking away from us.

I kinda loudly said one word, “soldier”. As I expected, given my chosen address to him, he stopped and turned in a way only a military person does. As we walked toward each other, I simply stuck out my hand and said “I appreciate your service”. His response was the response of a proud, dignified and honorable soldier.

He looked me directly in the eyes and said, “Thank you Sir, it’s my pleasure”. My pleasure!

I don’t know how long we drove before I could tell my wife what I was feeling. I told her my mix of sadness, respect, empathy and disgust. I don’t know how long after I told her these feelings that they turned to pure unadulterated anger and hatred.

(To Docudharma readers and “leaders”, plesee remember this was written 24hrs after this very emotional (for me) day. I thought about deleting this next paragraph before posting on Docudharma but chose not to as it reflects the feelings of a Veteran regarding this war. I hope it does not offend anyone or violate any etiquette of Docudharma. If it does, please feel free to advise me, I will understand and take appropriate action.)

George Bush and Dick Cheney and their entire spineless, lying, scumbag administration should be subjected to every torture method they have allowed to be used on others until they admit all their lies and secrets. They have ruined our nation. They destroyed the reputation of the great USA worldwide. They have committed criminal acts and pissed on the constitution. History will surely recount them as morons, thieves, criminals and incompetent. George Bush and his puppeteers should die a painful death and burn in hell. Not just for the death, injuries and irreparable harm brought upon millions. I particularly despise their using the admirable qualities of our military against those in the military for his undefinable gain. Stalin got his military to do what he wanted through fear. Hitler convinced and “sold” his military on his insane vision. Bushco lied and scammed and manipulated to get our soldiers to kill for them. These soldiers are not doing what they do in Iraq and Afghanistan out of fear (Stalin style). They are not doing what they do because they are “sold” on a madman’s insane vision (Hitler style). Bushco knew that if the people turned against “their war” (as we have) and many of the other spineless politicians began complaining, they would do little more than complain (that’s what has happened even since 2006 elections). On top of that they knew they had an “ace in the hole”. Bushco knew the United States military would never rebel or have mass complaining outside the ranks. Bushco knew they would do what they do because they are soldiers in the military of the United States. Bushco knew our military would do what they swore to do. Not out of fear or a cult like mindless Nazi. Bushco knew our military would carry out “their” useless and insane war because of loyalty, honor, pride, dignity and because they swore to do so. These despicable human beings used the admirable qualities of a group of men and women to destroy millions of lives to try to accomplish whatever their ludicrous plans are. They used Colin Powell to sell it to the U.N. and they have used other military men in political ways no other administration has. In my book, it doesn’t get any lower than that.  

I went to the Veterans Administration hospital yesterday for a routine appointment that was to be just a quick check-in with my doc & off I go. I came home a changed man.

This last paragraph is a rant. Although the pain and terrible things I wish upon some is perversely comforting, it would make me as low as them. I don’t really (well, not reallty, really) want these terrible things because they would violate our constitution. I hope you understand my frustration over the complete use and abuse of a group close to my heart, the enlisted men and women of our military force. I say enlisted because the politics begin with officers and the loyalty seems to decrease with some as they “climb the ranks”. Fortunately, not all, like the General the Major told me about. Since first writting this, I am glad to report, I have met numerous officers both in Iraq and “at home” that have maintained immense moral, ethical and personal pride. In future cross posts I will speak of them.

Since this diary was written in early Nov., I have learned from Iraq Vets and those still there, that saying “thanks for your service” or “thanks for protecting us” makes them uncomfortable and they don’t really like it. What they do like is to be told they are appreciated. If sincere, also to be asked, “how are you doing (or coping)?”. Only if sincere and you truly want to hear the answer.  

 

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  1. here. I would appreciate recommends to get more exposure for the “plight” of my brothers/sisters in arms. Thanks, TominMaine, aka/Tom, TKK (on Kos)

  2. including everything from the pet pics (awwww!)to the much appreciated rant! Next week will be my first experience as a volunteer at the VA Hospital here in LA. I’ll remember — thanks to you — to tell veterans how much their service is appreciated! Thanks!!

    • nocatz on December 9, 2007 at 12:13 am

    you considered deleting.  I’m still a little unclear as to your feelings and thoughts on Bush/Cheney et al. It seems you were holding back.  Please, please elaborate!

    Welcome TominMaine

    (also, nice dogs.)

  3. to raise our consciousness about today’s military.  

    My son is active duty navy, and I retired from the VA a couple of years ago, after working there for 34 years.  

    I share your anger over the way that bush/cheney have asked far too much, and given far to little to those who have sworn an oath to serve.  

    I’ve thanked active duty troops for their service in the past, but then when I heard a while back that they didn’t feel comfortable when people said that, I really wasn’t sure what to say to them–“thank you and even “I appreciate your service” doesn’t seem to express adequately what I’m really trying to say.  I’d like to tell them that I’m aware of the sacrifices they and their family have to make during their service, and that they are all in my thoughts and prayers daily–but, that would probably make most of them uncomfortable too.  

    • Zwoof on December 9, 2007 at 4:13 am

    and thanks for sharing.  I’m a disabled (PTSD and other) VN vet but just can’t seem to write about it. Glad you did.

    I’m always quick to praise the VA.  First rate care and compassion.  Much better than civilian care I’ve received.

    I went in for a “tune up” last May and was given a form that asked if I believed that prayer would help my PTSD.  I wish I had grabbed a copy of it because it was so strange.

    This of course meant that BushFundies have infiltrated the VA. I hope they don’t screw it up too bad.

  4. Just stopped by your other essay.  Both are wonderful.  You are free and welcome to rant here any time!  Thanks for your service and for raising our awareness.  

  5. You brought tears to the eyes of this senile old baby killer from the Vietnam era.

    At least you guys and gals have it a bit easier.  Not much but a little bit.

    How come you get to have two dogs like that and we are stuck with a mutant Dalmatian that followed one of the kids home when she was a pup.

    My wife paid $50 for a stray black cat that had been in stir for months. What a wonderful shopper she is. Months later the rest of the black cats are still in their cages and will probably be snuffed.  Seems people don’t like black cats.

    Crazy world.

    Some good things though.  You are one of those.  Even our mutant and black cat are.

    Best,  Terry

  6. I’m glad you didn’t delete the paragraph.  It is possible to be part of an active duty family and agree with that paragraph right down to your toe nails and the toe jam under them.  I wasn’t aware of the updated testing of our returning soldiers, I’m grateful for that since only 18 months ago there wasn’t much testing being done and many returning soldiers with PTSD were put out on the streets for being “insubordinate”.  I don’t grieve the situation so much now,  I did that earlier on.  I just sort of live up in the air right now floating around but not freefalling…I’m done with that thank God.  Hate what they have done to our National Guard.  If they had done this to the National Guard during Bush’s Vietnam “service” he’d know a few fucking things now wouldn’t he?

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