If we need a reminder how lucky we really are, just spend a day at the V.A. Hospital. Military men and women, wearing jackets, vests, T-shirts showing tattoos, and hats with commemorative badges, pins, branch of service designation, fill more than 24 reclining chairs occupying both sides of a large room.
Plugged in through IVs, chemotherapy liquids flow from plastic bags on a movable post to aid and renourish waning bodies, attacked by insurgents of a different type. For some, it is their "final fight."
It is not a room of gloom, but of hope and dreams. Faith abounds as new modalities are found and offered on trials to those who gave so much to their country, and are willing to try unknown medicines. They bravely faced the unknown before, as youngsters wearing their country's uniforms.
Many walked, crawled, flew, sailed into unchartered waters, skies, mine-filled forests, and if they were lucky to survive, discovered unknown medical problems that surfaced years later, bringing even bigger challenges.
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Visiting from chair to chair offering words of encouragement, knowing despair, there are attitudes of complacency and acceptance, but without one word of complaint.
Volunteers assist in any way possible by offering snacks, drinks, provide a comfortable pillow, smile or hug such as a young man, Josh, completing a course in health care, at nearby University of South Florida.
A Vietnam "hero" watching television, noting a luxury boat offered by an auction house, commented, "I am not really interested, but my wife is willing to give me anything and is spoiling me." Due to his serious deteriorating health, his 27-year-old son accompanied him weekly, the VA providing transportation and room at a nearby hotel.
No, these are not men and women asking for favors, but generations of men and women who answered their country's call and now are "hanging in there." Until then, all we can prayerfully say is "Thank you all for your service."
Kathleen M. Pasquariello