Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We Are Family: The Veterans Hospital and the Communal Sense it Perpetuates


There is a sense of community that resembles no other when you enter a Veteran Hospital.  You see old people, young people, people from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds and some with limbs others without. Simply stated, you see an amalgamation of folks waiting to be seen by the doctors.  What never ceases to amaze me is how these great men and women recollect the past as they interact with other soldiers.

Some of these great soldiers were in the military prior to July 26, 1948, when Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981 Desegregating the Military. They experienced the transition that took place in the military where all men were supposedly treated equal. Some may have been a part of a faction that still disobeyed that executive order and treated other soldiers indifferent. Some may have done harm or even killed another soldier because they had different ethnic backgrounds.  Others dealt with the Jim Crow military because of their devotedness to their country.  Nonetheless, pain has a way of being the equalizer from such misdirected thinking.

Once these great soldiers get out of the microcosmic world known as the military, they enter into the real world. In this real world they do not have the stripes or the uniform to hide behind so they have to be authentically human. No longer are their military codes to back your decision, you must deal with people on their own turf. Long gone are the days when being in the midst of battle you can get away with almost anything. Now you are forced to handle situations with calmness and without violence. Many are traumatized from the continual episodes of terror experience during their deployments. The battle scars are forever tattooed upon their flesh as reminders of the horror. Some have lost limbs due to explosion from landmines, while others deal with the mental aspects of having to slice enemy’s necks in order to save themselves or their team.

You quickly begin to see the transformation that takes place as you stroll through the Veterans Hospital. You get the chance to experience heroism in the midst of people who are not heroes. They are not idolized in the same vein as Lebron James for winning the NBA Championship. They are not given fame and fortune for winning the Super Bowl they are common men and women that took serious the call to defend their country. They did not have on colorful uniforms with special powers to fight against the perceived enemy; all they had was the sheer might and determination to win. Many did not return to a country laced with parades, they returned to angry mobs that despised what they had done.

Now, you see these men and women with the rewards of war-pain, suffering, PTSD, and lost limbs- trying to live a life of normalcy. As these soldiers sit and wait sometimes 4 to 5 hours to see the doctor, you begin to see how war and the military crossed the racial lines. You see old white men talking with young black men. You see young black women interacting with old black men. You see old black men sitting for hours having conversation with old white women.  The Veterans Hospital displays the impact of diverse community unlike any other thing you can imagine. There is a sense of brotherhood that surfaces as men remember what they have been through as soldiers. There is a level of sadness as they return every 6 months for their check up and learn that another one of their veterans has made their transition. You begin to see how soldiers of determination and strength process losing a part of the time. They celebrate by continuing to live themselves as an honor to the dead.  Rather racked with pain or mentally miserable these soldiers embody the true essence of community-willing to lay down one’s life for another.

There is no greater place to visit if you want to experience legacy and honor. There is no greater place to visit if you want first hand details of all the major wars over the past 70 years. There is no greater place to visit if you want to see what love looks like in public and in action. There is no greater place to visit if you want to see what happens when racism is thrown out of the window- The Veteran Hospital; A place where real people have no choice but to’ keep it real!’

                                                                                                              Brian Foulks

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