Posts Tagged ‘Veterans Day’

Eyes Wide Shut

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

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.

A poinant farewell

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Last week Fred and I had the honor of attending a funeral. The father of our friend died suddenly, without any warning, on Halloween.† It was a shock to all.† We are so fond of our friend Chris, we wanted to be at the funeral simply to show him our support.

As it turned out, the funeral was a catalyst for reflection.† The service was truly a celebration of his father's life, with a slide show and cool jazz music.† But what touched me most was the Air Force honors.† Simple.† Silent except for taps.† Astounding in its grace.† (Listen here.) When the two uniformed men performed the folding of the flag, I marveled at each gloved snap-fold of the starred, striped fabric, completed in practiced perfection.

I was struck by the ways we remember - sight (delightful family photos in a slide show), prayer (Chris' dad was a beloved, active church member), sound (soft jazz playing in the background for much of the service and also piano/voice solos), tactile (memorabilia of his life including cameras, a metalwork bike, and more artfully arranged on a 10 ft. table), and food (shared by family and friends after the service in the church hall).

Most of all, I was touched by the respect accorded Chris' father by the militiamen, who in all probability, had never met the man.† But their complete attention, for the time they performed the Air Force military rights, was on their deceased comrade in arms.

Just days later the massacre at Fort Hood shattered the day.† And I could not help but think of taps ... and the respectful silent nods that would be paid those who fell there, too.

As human beings we can be so mindful ... and mindless as well.† No answers here.† Just more thinking and determination to be certain I accord due honor and affection to those around me still breathing.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day and I will be listening for the bell here in Loveland ... and remembering.