Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Valuing Our Veterans

I'm sitting in the canteen at the Atlanta VA hospital, waiting on my Richard to get his medications refilled. As I walked down the halls, I felt that I should genuflect or something as the many men and women who offered their lives up for my freedom passed me. I was overwhelmed with the sense that I should be stopping each of them and thanking them for their sacrifices made for a bunch of strangers.

I've been both gratified and horrified by what I know about the way we treat our military, once we finish using them to fight our bloody wars. Richard became disabled long after the end of his service as a medical officer in Vietnam.
We were lucky to be eligible for the program that gave all former military personnel who had served during wartime the opportunity to sign up for medication benefits.

Thirty thousand dollars in medications to keep Richard's new heart from rejection was going to be quite a burden on his greatly reduced income. It was worth the red tape to get him included, and we were able to drop his COBRA medical insurance rather than have his whole office lose their coverage because of the cost of covering him. I was happy that his service during the war in Vietnam was going to give him the benefit of having done the right thing, something not to be taken for granted while we inhabit this earth.

Since this fortuitous event in our lives, I've hung my head in shame more than once over the injustices done to many of our veterans and their families. A friend, who was raising three children while her pilot husband flew hospital planes in Vietnam, informed me that while she was waiting on his return, alone with her children, she received death threats from people accusing her husband of being a "baby killer."

Recently, a good friend with a minimal retirement income was diagnosed with a type of leukemia for which there are good treatments available. Knowing that this friend had served two tours of duty as a medic in Vietnam, we were sure that he would have no problem qualifying for his well-deserved prescription benefits. This turned out not to be the case. The enrollment for this program was closed shortly after Richard was successfully entered into it. It's bad enough that our friend is now faced with an impossible situation, as his medications cost eighty thousand dollars a year. What makes it even worse is that he had a service-related back injury for which he has consistently been denied benefits. It seems that the service "lost" his records.

The World War II veterans have been lauded as "the greatest generation", and I'm proud of Richard and his fellow World War II Museum volunteers for their efforts in honoring them. But the veterans of the wars we didn't win, Korea and Vietnam, are still experiencing disrespect and neglect. I hope we will live long enough to see this changed, and not simply by inscriptions on war memorials.