Monday, June 11, 2012

People Watching


It is Wednesday, June 6th, at 1330 hours. I feel compelled to use military time. I have accompanied my husband to the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System in Tucson AZ. I see many faces, many ages, many races, both genders and far, far too many disabilities.

I wonder if the women who appear to be my age had been military nurses in Vietnam. Are they now waging a personal war of their own? Is it a battle fraught with illness and disease or perhaps mental health issues? I cannot fathom the battle fatigue and the horrific scenes these women saw, let alone what the soldiers of that era saw. Then to return home and try to act with a semblance of normalcy, all the while wanting to just ‘talk’ about what they experienced, yet due to the political climate of the day, no one wanting to hear about it. How it must have damaged their psyche, their soul, their spirit.

Years ago when in Washington DC, we visited the Wall. While there we also saw the Vietnam Women’s Memorial which had been newly erected in 1983. I stood there weeping with and for the women of the memorial. The artist captured in heart wrenching detail the emotion and feeling of that era. Glenna Goodacre, sculptor of the Vietnam Women's Memorial, is internationally renowned for her work in bronze. 


The Vietnam Women's Memorial is dedicated to the women of the United States who served in the Vietnam War, most of whom were nurses. It serves as a reminder of the importance of women in the conflict. It depicts three uniformed women with a wounded soldier. The woman looking up is named Hope, the woman praying is named Faith, and the woman tending to a wounded soldier is named Charity. To read more about the Women’s Memorial, follow the hyperlink.

God Bless the Warrior Women!

Some of the patients at the Veterans’ Health Center enter, proceed to the desk and then are routed elsewhere. Some, the frequent flyers, enter and turn left at the hall and proceed to the pharmacy.  They exit in short order carrying a brown paper bag laden with medication.

Some are thin and gaunt and not dressed ‘well’. I wonder if they are part and parcel of the invisible homeless veterans we don’t like to acknowledge. Not dressed well? By who’s standard? Are you judging, Tamara?

As I people watch, I am struck by a woman pushing a wheelchair with a thin, emaciated African American man. Due to his age, I wonder if the woman transported him over to the clinic for treatment from the ‘VA Community Living Center’. He cannot hold his head up. She does this for him as she softly and gently speaks to him. She leaves him and his wheelchair and exits the building. My heart feels squeezed and compressed with emotional upheaval.

Soon after checking in we proceed to the second floor. Again, a cacophony of faces and sounds greet us in this new waiting room.

I see a woman of Asian descent and wonder if she is Vietnamese and waiting for her soldier husband. I wonder how she was treated when brought to this, the land of the free… so far from her country and people. Did we welcome her? Did we treat her as a foreigner or an object of disdain? Words from Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus resounds in my brain; 

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

I am surprised by the young veterans. I shouldn’t be. This generation, not far removed from their I-Pod, I-Pads and I-Phones served and are still serving in a war so much more technological in nature than I care to imagine. They communicate in ‘real time’ with loved ones at home via their I-Phones and Skype. Drones are used for military intelligence. These young men and women are also maimed, crippled and killed via similar technology of the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and again, in ‘real time’.

They are far too young, far too young…

These men and women in the waiting room nod to one another, searching faces for something familiar or of possibly seeing someone they used to know…

in a different life…
in a different setting…
half way around the world…
and many years ago…

They shake hands and “thank” one another for their service. Husband met a ‘brother’ who had served in SE Asia at the same base where he was stationed. Sure, it was a few years after Husband had been there, but the camaraderie was immediately evident.

Mostly, people kept to themselves. One man and his wife came out and took a seat; she sat down, I began moving items to make room for him. He stopped me and said, “That’s alright, I can use this contraption (his walker) as a chair. It works well for that.” “It sure does,” I said, “and if you get in my way, since you are on wheels I can move you to wherever I like!” The three of us had a good laugh about that.

Another man came out of the clinic and sat to the left of me in the corner, but only for a bit. The television above him distorted his hearing so he moved. “Was it something I said?” I kiddingly asked, “Really, I’m not Jane Fonda – I’m too heavy and out of shape!” We all chucked about that, being that I was dressed in similar uniform clothing of the 60’s & 70’s.  My signature Patchouli oil was wafting in the air.

Speaking of Jane Fonda, not too long ago I received a >>>forward >>>forward >>>forward email from a church friend. It spewed such hateful, awful things about Jane Fonda, some of which I had not heard before. Me being me, I checked with the local urban legend Guru – Snoopes and what was being spouted and touted as actual truth, was in fact, untrue.  I contacted this ‘friend’ to let her know and provided her the web address for her own verification of said article. Her response was, that’s interesting – but no retraction.

If you are interested in more about Jane Fonda’s current activities, 
follow the hyperlink!

For what it’s worth, we all have done and said things when we were younger that we are not that proud of now. That is part of being young – learning who it is we are, what it is we believe and then having to live with the consequences of our actions. I have a few areas of my life where I’d love to have a ‘do-over’ but that just doesn’t happen. But then my life hasn’t been as public and publicized as some. Then again, I wonder if I would do a ‘do-over’ for even those things I’d like to erase from my memory (and everyone else’s) have helped to form and mold me into whom I am today.

When husband exited the clinic appointment, I called out to him, “You need to check out!” and pointed to where that line was. He struck a pose and sauntered back over to my area as if it were a model’s runway all the while saying, “Check me out!” It was quite laughable and quite memorable, bless his heart!  Laughter does indeed do the heart good!

I believe I mentioned before that Husband did two tours of Southeast Asia. He was in the Air Force and stationed at two different supply depots. He developed severe asthma at the age of 38 when we lived in Ohio.  We were in the emergency room at least once a month and he was being admitted to the hospital once every six months. Then at the age of 55 he had a heart attack.

Surprisingly, the VA is covering all medical aspects of his heart condition. The jury is still out on whether or not his asthma is service related. The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System is one of the top rated VA facilities in the U.S. We are blessed beyond measure. Yet we remained quiet and reflective on the 2 hour trip home.

Today, June 9th, 2010, we were awakened early (0330 hours to be exact) by our 4-year old grandson. He crawled into bed with us, nestled under the covers and then said, “I’m hungry.” He wanted scrambled eggs for breakfast. We obliged. We also had a lesson in humanity. We’ve been purchasing lovely brown eggs from the local farmer’s market. I showed them to him and said, “Look, Zachary! They are all different colors – just like people!” He looked at them intently and said, “Yes, Ga’Ma, they are different colors!” It was a wonderful teaching opportunity moment.

Being that we were up so early, we were able to run to the “Wal-Mart Corporate you can’t get it anywhere else this time of the morning especially in a town this size” to purchase some small flags to wave. Our local National Guard Unit was being deployed to Afghanistan. The community was encouraged to line the streets from the Armory all the way out of town. This was scheduled to begin at 0600 hours. We decided to head to the main highway leading out of town and just in front of the Chamber of Commerce. I was good to see families lining the highway waving flags in support of the leaving troops. Admittedly, the crowd wasn’t as big as I recall from 2001 when the Unit first deployed to the Middle East, but it was nice. Various police departments and the volunteer fireman were all helping to escort them out of town. I always cry at these events – the going out and the coming home.

Until the next installment,

Tamara

p.s. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.     ~Romans 13:7