Most of us, I hope, have moments when we ponder how it is we have gotten to wherever it is we are. This seems to be one of those moments for me. I believe that God has had His plan for me since I was conceived. I could not have formulated such a path had I set out to do so; or would’ve thought this path almost impossible to take.
All of the people I have been touched by have taught me even though I have not always been aware of that; some taught me what to do and some taught me what not to do. That I was able to discern which was better I credit to those who raised me, who gave me the occasional spanking, who encouraged me and let me make my own mistakes. And I made a bunch of mistakes but I survived those through the grace of God.
I had occasion yesterday to drive a friend to the VA facility in downtown Milwaukee for a hearing test and hearing aid fitting. That exposed me to many people, virtually all of whom were veterans or the family members of veterans. These were the people who answered the call to defend me and you and our families when I was just a toddler during WW II and in all the times of need since then. I have served in the military and have been fortunate to avoid actual conflict. We all served but the lottery that was to determine who did what and where and when came up favorably for me.
First, I was very impressed with this facility and with each of the people whom I interacted and who interacted with others while I watched. I know there are VA facilities that make the news and most often not about how well they function. This one was a beehive of activity but it all came together as it was intended to come together. And, I didn’t observe one person grousing about this, that or the other. Either patients, customers or staff.
Each of us, if so inclined, can look back at the paths we have followed. Most of us do so once in a while but not all that often. Some of us look back from the cells that contain us while others of us look back from comfortable homes, our offices, our studios, etc. Each of us makes and has made contributions along the way, and some of us have made mistakes that cost us freedom and money as we paid back our countrymen for those transgressions. Some made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Each of us has a story to tell, some are relatively boring and others are stories of courage and dedication in the face of life-threatening battle.
Yet all the people I saw yesterday were just normal citizens making the best of their situations. Short and tall; skinny and fat; black and Hispanic and white; men and women; all citizens of this country who had been prepared to give the ultimate for that country. One man in a wheelchair had lost both his legs but he was just going about his day as I’m sure he usually does. He, too, needed a new hearing aid.
There were, I am certain, many of these very same people who had serious problems, who were troubled, who had issues with family or who wondered how they’d survive another month. Yet, they all seemed to understand they were among their comrades and that they’d all paid the price expected of them no matter the price that had been extracted.
It would be good for us all to have the experience I had yesterday and who could reflect on the thoughts that yesterday created for me. True, some of us would’ve carried a grudge of one sort or another that would’ve affected the experience, but I think we’d all have been the better for that experience.
The flag seems maybe just a little brighter today. Any problems that were concerning to me yesterday, aren’t problems today. Any physical ailments I have or think I might have seem very small today, by comparison to those I saw with their issues yesterday. We have men and women in harm’s way today; we need to say a prayer for them and their loved ones. We need to see the sunshine rather than the clouds. We need to be thankful for all those who’ve gone before us and for all those serving now, and we do need to continue to work to assure that every VA facility is running as the one I saw yesterday was running.
And we need to be certain we do not permit these facilities to be political playthings to be used when it is time for election or re-election and then forgotten for two years or six years.