First, I want to say thank you to the veterans of the United States Military who have given so much for freedom around the world. God bless you all. And I also don't want to forget to tell all my Marine Corps brethren happy birthday! May the Corps live forever.
I also want to recognize those people and organizations who work so hard for our kids in the military. Those who give their all to bring a little love and comfort to a Soldier's life. You also serve and I honor your patriotism.
I was recently reminded that the aftermath of war and its toll on the individual Soldier carries on for an entire generation after a conflict.
I had to opportunity to sit with many lonely veterans at a VA hospital. I listened to the stories, good and bad, about their treatment at the VA; war stories they would probably tell no one else; when and where they received their wounds; or when and where they were so mentally wounded that they never recovered.
What impacted me the most was when night fell and the homeless veterans came out of the hospital. They seemed to instinctively want to be with others of their “kind” and they congregated with us “smokers,” sitting around the fringe of the group listening and sometimes contributing a word or two.
They would sometimes bum a cigarette or ask for food but for the most part they were respectful of the other veterans. Some seemed mentally challenged; they would talk to them selves if no one would listen. Some would stare off into space like they were completely oblivious of their surroundings or were somewhere far away in space AND time reliving something most people will never know.
Some present would treat them with distain explaining that they had made their own life choices and for the most part this is the way they WANTED to live. Others reacted to the homeless by ignoring them while yet a third group would occasionally talk with them or give them a small “donation.”
As the night wore on most would drift away into the darkness while the hard core would wait until the police asked them to leave. I wondered where they went.
Finally all the hospitalized veterans became so fatigued that even the allure of comradeship was not enough to keep them there and they slowly made their way back to their rooms; alone.
It was a stark reminder of the aftermath of war.
We have all done a good job helping others. But we have a long way to go.
May God bless our military and its veterans.