Another Day at the VA

Thank you for your service

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Today we arrived around 11:30 a.m. at the Greenville NC VA clinic. Outside the front doors, lining the driveway, were Junior ROTC color guard members. A young woman in uniform came up to us and said, “Did either of you serve?”

Rob answered “Yes, Air Force.”

She said, taking his hand and shaking it, “Thank you for your service.”

Then we walked the gauntlet. A color guard, over 12 members, each holding a flag on a long flag pole, they dipped the colors as Rob walked under them. It was quite moving and it affected everyone who walked that twenty feet to the front door. I looked over at Rob and saw tears streaming down his face. I looked over at other members of the public, walking into the clinic and they too had tears streaming down their face.

When we got inside, another young woman, in full dress uniform also, asked if she could pin a ribbon on our lapel. We said of course and she did.

Right outside the Mental Health registration and waiting room, a middle-aged woman (not in a uniform) stood behind the Caregiver’s information table. I asked her about something on the table, a hand sanitizer give-away I believe, and she said, “Oh are you a caregiver?” as Rob kept walking and went into the door of the waiting area.

“Yes,” I said, “but not as a job … as a wife. I’ve called yall many times.”

“Oh,” she replied and looked at me, “Which number?”

“The 800 one” I told her. She nodded. “I’ll come back for more information.”

When we went into the mental health waiting room, Rob got in line to register for Group Therapy. This is his Thursday group for MST (Military Sexual Trauma) and it meets for two hours. Today was supposed to be a special two-session group, to make up for the session missed due to Hurricane Florence. As Rob gave his name, he was told group was canceled for today. No explanation, no prior notice… a thirty mile drive.

What upset me the most? I didn’t get to go out and talk to the caregiver booth woman. I wanted information. I had to just walk Rob out of there, through the color guard again, through the gauntlet of flags and young men and women in uniform saying “Thank you for your service!” “Thank you for your service” loudly as we walked past them.

A man, probably around 60 to 65 years old, walking kind of with us, stopped me as we reached the parking lot. “That’s a lot nicer than twenty years ago … when I came home a girl spit in my face when I walked off the plane.”

“Good God,” I said.

He said, “They don’t spit at ’em any more, 9/11 did that. No more spitting on the troops.”

That’s today’s VA visit. I’ll let you know what happens next week, when hopefully we’ll be back on track for group meetings.

Valerie MacEwan :: The Dead Mule

The Dead Mule @deadmule writer, thinker, advocate for an ethical society, publisher online for 25 years.