Eyes Wide Shut

When my husbandís health problems escalated to where he needed intensive medical care, a friend suggested he contact the Veteransí Administration.

ìAs a U. S. Navy Vet,î he said, ìyou should be eligible for health related benefits.î

Eddie inquired, and indeed discovered that because of his military experience he qualified for a basically cost free health program. One that provided an array of medical services, which, because of his personal needs, turned out to be extensive.

On several occasions, Eddie had to undergo high tech diagnostic testing and treatment that led to specialized medications to operations. He also needed follow-up well-care visits and numerous, lengthy hospital stays. Along with these services he encountered countless skilled and compassionate doctors, nurses, specialists and a highly trained general staffóevery one unique and unforgettable.

In addition, he made and cultivated friendships with other servicemen with their own physical difficulties, some of which seemed far worse then his; at least to me.

During the first few visits to the V.A. Hospital, I must admit to being overwhelmed, embarrassed and frightened at the sights I encountered. It was here, my eyes were opened and I became exposed to the effects of war on both men and women of all ages in a way I had never could have anticipated or imagined.

Now I thought I was as patriotic as the next person was. Didnít I sing the patriotic songs and praise the vets for their efforts? Didnít I send donations to the appropriate organizations and attend local parades to honor our soldiers? Didnít I hang my flag out to acknowledge them on Veterans Day and Memorial Day and wear handmade trinkets to show my support?

Yet nothing prepared me for the experience of being in the company of so many who had gone through so much.

I felt humbled by my lack of real world knowledge and the obvious ignorance I held about the veteranís who served our country. I questioned what those of us, and I believe that statistic is high, are not truly aware of what they experience for our benefit.

History ìteachesî us about cause, effect and outcome of war. Television and specialized websites show us the weaponry, destruction, and fatal statistics. News media personalities and politicians analyze the pros and cons of war.

Yet what we donít see, hear or learn much about is the human experience of those who actually do the fighting, how soldiers are affected, how the aftermath changes their lives.

Old-timers from World War ll and Korea, my contemporaries from Vietnam and the youngsters from the Gulf War at the Denver, CO and Cheyenne, WY V.A. Hospitals opened my eyes to a different world; one I never realized existed is such a significant abundance.

The dramatic impact of wheel chair bound vets; single-limb and multiple-limb amputees and long-term bedridden patients whose ailments are not obvious struck an unsuspecting emotional response. I never knewÖ

And those who lost lifeís luster and wander in search of themselves their dreams and the life they once knew, jolted my sense of appreciation for life. I never really knewÖ

Most of these Vets were not ranked as heroes. They were instead regarded as victims of a tragedy during war maneuvers.

Becoming part of this world showed me exactly how little I actually knew of the consequences of war and the sacrifices others gave and suffered for a freedom I took for granted. Itís then I realized how much I didnít understand the far-reaching effects on, not only them, but upon their families and friends. Itís then I realized that despite how their ailments came about, they were, indeed, all heroes who served our country because they believed their efforts would impact the worldÖmake it better place in which we could all live.

I'm thankful for my husbandís care, having my eyes opened, being filled with a profound gratitude for every vetís service to our country. I also have a deeper respect and sense of the meaning of veteran, patriotism, freedom and making the world a better place in which to liveÖone day, one action, one person at a time.

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9 Responses to “Eyes Wide Shut”

  1. d. darko says:

    "naturally the common people don't want war. but it is the leaders of a country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. that is easy. all you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. it works the same in any country."

    -Hermann Goering

    "the tragedy of modern war is that the young men die fighting each other - instead of their real enemies back home in the capitals."

    -Edward Abbey

  2. cheryl courtney says:

    Yes, everyone of them is a hero. To have served is an honor and often these people are overlooked because they came back injured, or grew ill as they aged. We should never forget that Freedom is Not Free. Thank you for your insights and courage to face your own blind spots. Now we can all celebrate together, today on Veterns Day and we should.

  3. Andy says:

    Nice blog entry. Our experience at the VA hospital will stick with me forever. So much care being given to those who have given so much for us. It changes your perspective.

  4. Helen,
    What a beautifully written, eye-opening piece this is. Thank you for sharing this with me and all who read this post.
    I am always astounded by the acts of selflessness our servicemen and women perform in the name of freedom.

  5. Well expressed, Helen. Sorry I live outside Loveland's city limits - I cannot hear the bell here in the county. But when I lived downtown, I loved awaking to its sound, glad to be in communion with others appreciating the selfless service given by so many.

  6. Helen, this is a beautiful post. Thanks for writing it and for reminding us about the sacrifices made by so many to keep our country and freedoms intact.


  7. Annette Caccamise says:

    Hi Helen,

    Dick shared this well-written thoughtful remembrance with me. It was a sobering tribute because I truly felt I was there with you while you were walking through those halls and to quote a few famous politicians "feeling your pain." I do wish we could do more. Thank you bringing this to the forefront.


  8. Victoria says:

    Hi Helen. Thanks for writing this. There are worlds upon worlds we know nothing about. Thanks for the reminders! Good timing for Veterans Day.
    ~ Victoria

  9. Fay Ulanoff says:

    What an experiance you had
    Oh but for the gtace of God goes anyone

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