Spent a few hours at the OKC VA yesterday, two ‘interesting’ things…
First, we all STILL hate standing in line…LOL What a surprise! Pharmacy line was probably 8-9 long, 7 standing, 1 in wheelchair. The usual comments were flying (hurry up and wait, etc.) The gent in the wheelchair piped up, “At least I’m sitting down.” Moving his lap blanket, he held up a stump in a sock and said, “And I gotta remember the damn thing is gone, especially at night, when I gotta go piss… Got up last night and fell flat on my damn face.” Rather than commiseration, the line broke out in laughter, not AT the gent, but with him. One of the others in line rapped his prosthetic and replied, “Yep, you can either set the leg right by the bed, or put your walker where you’ll fall into it, your choice.”
Yep, gallows humor, but hey… Military…
The inherent politeness of veterans of all ages, sexes, creeds, and colors…
The other was an ongoing conversation I stepped into the middle of in the waiting room. Probably 8-10 folks, all races, at least three generations spanning WWII to GWOT. I caught the tail end of the 9/11 conversation, which segued into the whole Generals and Admirals coming out for either candidate (consensus they should ALL shut up, not their place to drag the military into the middle of the crap), to the NFL thing (general consensus, boycott their asses for any team or players that sit) and the laughable facts surrounding Kaepernick (adopted, raised by white parents, $19M paycheck this year, scholarships, etc), and the idiot from Kansas City that did the black power salute last night.
That got a younger black veteran started (probably mid-late 20s, missing an arm below the elbow). He pulled at his skin and said something like, “This skin suit don’t mean s**t,” hitting his chest he went on, “It’s what’s in here. I hate going home, everybody pity’s me, or says I was stupid to go.” He waved his arm around the room, “I feel more comfortable with you old farts than I do with any of my peers. Y’all understand…”
That got a round of laughter, and and one of the older black vets said something like, “Welcome to our world. The only thing that counts here is your service. Nothing more, nothing less. We ARE your family now. All of us.”
I got called for the doc at that point, and didn’t hear the rest of it, but damned if that isn’t true… Inter-service rivalries not withstanding, active duty and veterans DO stand together, pretty much regardless of what they are facing…
And the right people of the world are behind you 100%.
My dad was career Marine. Lied about his age, re-upped in Korea and so on. I was medically unqual’d since child age…that means I was not able to serve but I did spend a lot of time in Navy hospitals. Reading your comments heavily reminded me of those times. Plus, dear ol dad was ‘drag’ us with him to functions and what not. It was always exciting to listen in. Maybe ‘exciting’ isn’t the right word. Interesting, enticing, illustrative, inspiring, revealing of the human condition. Very proud of them I have met over the years.
A quote from Phil Garringtons book RANCHO COSTA NADA:
Waiting in a VA hospital waiting room is a sure cure for hypochondria.
From my Vietnam vet uncle:
“The VA won’t help until you’re dying, and then they’ll help WITH the dying.”
Dad’s a vet, daughter’s a vet, and now oldest grandson, all have a special kinship with those they served with, and others who have served.
The VA here is good, I take Dad to the clinics and he is always treated with the utmost respect, and kindness. Things may not happen quite as fast as one would want, but it’s faster than the civilian medical facilities in this neck of the woods.
I miss — really miss — being around guys like that every day.
It’s not the killing people for a living that I miss, it’s the people that I did it with. It may make me sound like a gangster for writing that, but I call it the way I see it.
Have been in similar assemblies – all true. That sense of camaraderie doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s not hyperbole to say every man or woman in that place has your back, and you theirs. Instant family … and I still miss it.
Aw. Thanks for sharing that.
r- Yep, there IS always that side… For a child, an eyeopening experience!
j.r.- Oh HELL yes… 🙂
McT- Seems like a lot are that way, so far, OKC seems to be pretty good (but I’m not THAT sick)…
Brig- That’s good news!
LL- Yep… LOL
Rev- Good point!
Fargo- You’re welcome!
I agree. I love being with my shipmates each year at our reunions. We can laugh or shake our heads with just one word, and the wives are looking like WTF? You gotta be there to understand.
Yesterday had a long conversation with a trauma nurse. He did 20 months in Iraq. National Guard, went RA, came out a Captain. Took us about three minutes to connect.
I did an interview with a young lady once, who had to interview a veteran for an AP History class. One of the things that came out of that, which I hadn’t really thought about, was the fact that if I know someone is a veteran, I will automatically trust them, until such time as he/she proves that I can’t. Civilians don’t get that, I don’t trust them until I know them.
Don’t care what service, what war, what rank/rating/MOS/AFSC. If you are a veteran, until you prove that I CAN’T trust you, the trust is automatic.
Of course, the only war my family has missed since the Revolution was the Spanish-American war, and my grandpa tried to enlist for that, but he was only 8, so they wouldn’t take him.
Spook, I know the feeling. In my field (calibration), I’ve worked with more vets than non-vets. I tend to expect them to be conscientious workers, to shoot straight with me (with weapons, too, if we get together after work), to be willing to do what we have to do, no matter how onerous, to get the job done correctly.
Some, fortunately only a couple, have turned out to be what we called in my USN days “shitbirds”. Some I just couldn’t get along with, or they with me, or both; few of them, too, thankfully. Most were worth my initial faith in them. If you’ve done the job under trying circumstances, it’s easy to do it in the civilian world. There are all kind of temptations to do it the easy way–after all, who would know–but few choose that way.
I do it on onsites, too, with customers & their employees whom I’ve never met. With vets, the bond is just there. Double it if they ride–I’m an old biker, & look it. The shared military experience is a bond.
Thanks for the post, OldNFO, & sorry for being so long-winded. We sailors will ramble on at times. Being one yourself, I’m sure you’ve run across the phenomenon.
I avoided VN Unit and other reunions like the PLAQUE for years, because I felt I’d be surrounded by grey haired old farts crying in their beers, living in the past.
The truth COULD NOT be farther from the truth.
Smiles. Laughter. LOVE.
I’ve been attending at least two reunions yearly, since.
And I’m more comfortable there than at Church.
If you are able… GO.
Thank-you for sharing this story