(Steve, a VA Physician and six-tour Navy Doc, has twice commented on our criticism of the VA, where he works. This comment, occasioned by the Secretary Bob McDonald’s brain-dead comparison of VA waiting lines to those at Disney attractions, moved us and deserved wider readership, so we plucked it out and shared it with you. He’ll get to the picture in a minute. We made one punctuation change, and inserted paragraph breaks. At the end we’ll link to both his comments. -Ed.)
I’ve written a couple of times sort of semi-defending my fellow actual patient care providers of the VA, so I thought I’d share my reaction to Secretary McDonald’s statement.
It made my left hand hurt.
I few years ago I was in a FOB in Nowzad in Helmand Province Afghanistan. We had had a rough 48 hours after two EOD Sgt’s were killed trying to disarm an IED. I went out with the Marines to recover the bodies and was caught in an ambush for an hour before we could break free. We spent another day trying to recover as much of the body parts as we could.
At the end of the second day I was going through their recovered gear trying to separate all the remains before we turned the gear in. I found a palm sized piece of skull in one of the plate carriers and had to walk across the FOB back to medical hiding it in my hand. Several Marines came up to talk to me and I remember almost cutting my hand as I involuntarily squeezed the bone. All week I’ve been imagining walking up to Secretary McDonald and handing him the bone, saying “Here, you put this in the body bag.”
I don’t know why. I have 6 deployments worth of other memories, but that’s the one I’ve been having.
I don’t want to shut down the VA, I just want to see the Ruling Class experience the same pain and loss that we’ve had. I doubt it would change anything though.
The image I attached was taken by a Wall Street Journal photographer from the last month of our deployment. He wrote about Marines wearing out the soles of their right boots dragging them behind them on patrol. He thought it was to mark a path to walk in through the IED fields. That’s close but he didn’t understand. It’s easy enough to walk in the footprints in front of you. They were dragging their feet to try to deliberately detonate any IED’s the engineer in front with the metal detector missed, so they would die instead of their brothers. That’s what loyalty and love really is.
That’s why I took the VA job when I left the Navy, because I can never repay the debt of that kind of loyalty. Some days I hate the VA as much as any other Veteran, but what else can I do?
(Ed. again: Steve’s previous comments are here and here, and this comment was placed here. Please read his comments for an insider’s view of the VA and compare that to its current notoriety in the press — including in this blog).