A scripture exerpt: Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ ~Matthew 25
*Personal Disclaimer: My mind is full of so many details and directions. I will attempt to briefly lay out the gist and hope for a cohesive presence.
It is inconceivable to me that our veteran’s suffer at the hands of a medical system inadequately established to care for the men and women who offer their body, mind and often times spirit in sacrifice for the rest of us. Why are the powers-that-be not reorganizing this health care system to better accommodate the needs at hand? I exhale loudly as I contemplate the complexity of the question. The profound respire of frustration.
You see I sat with my son for each and every appointment he had at the VA. There were many and at various locations–Los Angeles, Long Beach, Laguna Niguel. Hoped for Palo Alto, but denied. Looked into La Jolla, denied. We would bring our own lunch cooler, games and the best patience we could muster. Neurology, for example: After the 3 to 4 hour wait, we would meet with a resident doctor from the local University California system. The resident would take notes. Another hour and then the specialist would enter the room. Despite the notes from the resident, the same questions would fly. And result? Nothing. “Sorry but I don’t think the VA will approve that treatment. I’ll submit the request but it is doubtful. I’ll see you back here in another month.” And commonly the appointment is re-scheduled because the speciliast has to travel to teach. What in the world is the VA doing using military veterans as tools for the educational system? The UC system is impacted in and of itself, let alone sharing it’s depletion with the VA. …it boils my blood.
I am getting closer to sharing Cole’s story, or at least pulling back the veil in snipets. His story is complex and well layered. He was on the front lines in Afghanistan with a malignant brain tumor, but was told he had mental illness. Three Army hospitals failed to extend the proper diagnostics to catch the tumor early on. In fact it was Cole who sensed the issue, but only after grappling for months with what the Marine Corps was telling him–that he was subpar. And of course they would think that, the Army hospitals were confirming as much. His tumor was discovered here in our home hospital, only after Cole insisted in the ER that he would not leave without a CT scan. End scene.
This morning my husband asked the most unusual question, “Would you want to hike up to the flag pole with me today?” Now if you know me, you know that I LOVE to hike. You would also know that Brian (my other half) does not. So when he asked me, and being I had the day off from work, I jumped at the chance and gave an emphatic, positive reply. Being that Veteran’s Day is heading toward us this week, my heart is a bit sensitive. Veteran’s Day also falls the day before our daughter’s birthday. These two dates are bitter sweet for our family. Without Cole by our side, celebrations of any kind are. And the flag pole hike is one that I have traversed with Cole alone, prior to his tumor discovery. So this morning as I was retracing steps long ago taken with my son by my side, and being the very trail is named “Patriot Trail,” additionally the flag waving atop the ridgeline was secured as an Eagle Scout project (Cole earned his Eagle Scout in January of 2009) my mind was busy in pondering. I thought of our own story, layered and well suited for a lawsuit or two. But as I think of the legal road, I can’t escape the question, “for what and to whom would that benefit?” I can sue the Army, Marine Corps and VA but that won’t bring Cole back to our family. Sure a little financial gain is a temptation, I won’t lie. Especially as expenses from the experience mount. But the gain of financial security seems pointless when Cole’s story is the unfortunate story of many of our veteran’s. No, I must hang on and invest the energy needed to “tell the tale” for the greater good–the men and women still living.
One of Cole’s best friends from the Corps is one such person. In Texas he is currently experiencing the same “run around” for a condition that should (and could) easily be remidied. When I think of my calling as a servant of The Most High, I cannot forget the living. And as such I remember the words of Jesus as written in the book of Matthew. Of course with teaching from Jesus there are multiple lessons imparted, though I am honing in on “the least of these.” Essentially Jesus is saying to those he is teaching that when considering people of lesser circumstances, you are simultaneously considering the Heavenly Father. And should you disregard those facing unfortunate pathways, you also disregard God. Thus to garner favor for the Bent family only feels wrong, when so many are presently living Cole’s story. Which brings me to my next question, “how did our military veteran’s get relegated to the category of ‘least of these’?” The idea of it sickens my soul.
This Veteran’s Day I will visit the grave of my son. I will hate every minute of it. But amidst my sorrow and longing for his return I will also seek strength. Strength to find the path of action which will lead to reform. Our military service people deserve it.