Those We Have Left Behind: Veterans Day Reflection

My father, a Navy vet,  viewed Veterans Day as a day of reflection.  He talked about being injured in the Korean War.  He spoke about racial discrimination among officers even in the distribution of work on the ship:

Minority sailors were forced to do the hardest tasks while whites were given days off of the ship.

  One time, a batch of moldy potatoes made their way into the mess trays of black seaman only. That was common in that time.

Life was hard but for many the military meant a chance at a better life. The few dollars earned meant money was sent stateside to help my father's elderly parents and younger siblings.

Years later, my father struggled with an elusive bullet that traveled through out his body. 

The VA Hospital couldn't prescribe anything to stop the night chills nor the numbness in his legs.   The painful limp that became his trademark still didn't qualify him for total disability.  His hands and feet stayed freezing cold and he always slept with gloves and 4 pairs of socks.

After years of diagnostic tests, the government sent $11 per month for each dependent (my sister and I) for just under a year.    That meant that my father had to work through the pain and did so until the day he died.  He passed away at the age of 68 with no military monetary assistance.

A Purple Heart Recipient, my father,received his 21 gun salute after suffering for a lifetime.

My uncle, a Vietnam veteran who fought in the jungle with rain soaked boots, watched his best friend catch a bullet to the skull while VC soldiers advanced on their rally point. 

Drafted right out of a segregated high school, he was placed right in a hotbed of death in a foreign country.  The country he left didn't allow him to be viewed as an equal amongst his peers. 

Whites viewed HIM as an enemy.  Yet my uncle  was given a gun and ordered to kill an UNKNOWN enemy: An enemy who was poor like he was.  

My uncle came home to the US being met with people who didn't agree with the war the government sent him to fight. 

Adjusting to life was impossible.  The heavy artillery resulted in partial deafness and he remained shellshocked for over 3 decades. 

The government didn't deem him disabled after suffering from extreme insomnia, night terrors and mental anguish.

Furthermore, he felt as though something"chemically" was wrong. He knew that he may have been exposed to lethal elements (Agent Orange).

My uncle was finally approved for total disability not even a year before he passed away last March at the age of 64.

My cousin, a proud Marine Vet, fought in Desert Storm and suffers from an unknown illness. This illness came after his deployment.

He too wonders if he may have been exposed to some sort of chemical while deployed which is now attacking his neurological

Either way, he knows that the VA will refuse to admit that the change was related to his time in the Middle East.

Today, he struggles to cope with a disease no one can diagnose.

Soldiers come home from war facing civilian life and some turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. Others are unable to express emotion and can become abusive to themselves or others.

This day is definitely a time to remember those who served our country.

Yet, we need to remember those veterans that are fighting disabilities, mental and physical, that threaten any normalcy in their lives.

We must create a plan within our government that takes better care of our vets.

As Americans, we should fight for our soldiers as they have done for us. By refusing to acknowledge deployment related illnesses, our government has negated any action of gratitude on this very day.

Remember the soldier who still hears bullets whizzing by his ears while trying to sleep or the soldier who feels guilty that he is the only one that made it home.

God Bless America.

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