To give life you must take life,
and as our grief falls flat and hollow
upon the billion-blooded sea
I pass upon serious inward-breaking shoals rimmed
with white-legged, white-bellied rotting creatures
lengthily dead and rioting against surrounding scenes.
Dear child, I only did to you what the sparrow
did to you; I am old when it is fashionable to be
young; I cry when it is fashionable to laugh.
I hated you when it would have taken less courage
Today is my dad’s birthday, he would have been 67. In five days it will be two years since he died. I hoped that after two years of reflection I would have gained some perspective, but that hasn’t been the case.
Usually, the least important parts of a person’s life are the beginning and the end; it’s the middle, how they lived that truly counts. But when I think of my dad it’s hard not to think of the suffering he endured at the end of his life. He waited 8 months for chemo and he died 8 months after that. One of the last thing he said to me was that he wanted someone to shoot him in the head so the nightmare he was living would end. It’s something that crosses my mind daily and at the same I hear the House of Representatives have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act again. I remember when Mitt Romney was campaigning a few years ago he said “people don’t die in their apartments because they couldn’t get healthcare.” It makes me angry that people believe that because that is exactly what happened to my dad.
I cringe when even after 13 years of war, people are still war hungry. All of these people fail to realize that 40 years after the Vietnam War has ended veterans and their families are still paying for it. And the wars of my generation will be no different. Forty years from now there will be ripple effects from the wars on terror that we won’t see coming. What price are you willing to pay?
I’m disappointed that we think throwing football games in honor of service members and veterans does anything to actually help them. I’m disappointed that people think watching a movie like American Sniper actually helps veterans. If all of the news about the failed state of the VA didn’t raise awareness a movie or football game won’t either. If all of the people that went to the game or saw the movie took an extra 5 to 10 minutes to reach out to their legislators to tell them to fix the VA maybe 22 veterans wouldn’t commit suicide every day and maybe veterans wouldn’t die waiting for healthcare, either.
I don’t like living in a place where it’s so easy to cast aside people that don’t meet our expectations, whether they are veterans or not. It isn’t someone else’s problem, it’s our problem. I hope that someday instead of remembering my dad’s agony I will only see his cheshire cat like grin and his love for life.
If you follow mainstream national news you’ve probably heard that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinsekiresigned this morning. When he met in front of legislators last week he told them he thought the problems were isolated. That alone has shed light on how out of touch the Secretary was from what has been going on with the health care side of the VA. I don’t think there is one pivotal instance that was a failure on his part, it was all of the little things building up and sticking together. His resignation was met with mixed reactions, many of his supporters have taken it personal, but I think many of them have confused criticisms of system flaws and his leadership as attacks against him as a human being, veteran, and friend. I believe wholeheartedly that he is a good person and always had the best of intentions, but you can’t unring a bell. His resignation alone won’t be enough to fix everything, but I hope the new secretary will be able to implement new standards and change the climate at the VA and move forward with providing veterans the best care available. We can stop bickering about which political party did this or what veteran service organization didn’t do that, it doesn’t matter. The veterans that continue to wait for necessary medical attention matter the most. Additionally, let us not forget the suffering inflicted on veterans and their families that were not fortunate enough to get timely appointments and medical attention and weren’t able to live long enough to see changes to the system.