I have to tell you a little about myself. I served twenty years in the Armed Forces in service to my country. I joined the U.S. Navy during the last year of President Reagan’s administration and retired during President George W. Bush’s. During that time, I volunteered for the Gulf War (my orders to the USS Nassau were suspended when my own unit, USS Wasp, received orders to join the war effort. The war ended before my ship was to sail but I did participate in refugee operations), the Kosovo Campaign (where I was decorated with a Navy Marine Corps Achievement medal) and even volunteered for the Iraq War; which I was deployed to in support of twice. For my service in Iraq, I was given a promotion, a Navy Commendation Medal, and both the Global War on Terrorism Service and Expeditionary Medals.
I was a very dedicated sailor during my time. I gave 110% towards everything I was involved in even when I did not agree with the mission I was assigned to. I did this because I felt it was my duty to do so. I believed that this is what was expected of me when I rose my hand and said, “I do solemny swear …”
I have never been a fan of sick call. I thought that sick call was for the walking wounded, those who spent their weekends getting drunk only to face hangovers on Monday morning. If I got a sniffle, I took some Tylenol. A headache; some aspirin. An ache or pain; I sucked it up. Suffer from depression? I saw a counselor at Family Services on my own time. Again, this is what I thought I was supposed to do. As time wore on my service time began to take a toll on my body. My knees ached from walking upon steel decks and climbing ladders. I developed sleep apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) which, at times, can be so painful that walking becomes difficult. During the last two years of my service, I couldn’t postpone it anymore … I took a trip to sick call.
I was placed on Requip for my RLS and after several sleep exams, given a C-Pap to deal with my apnea.
I expected that the U.S. government, who I had supported so loyally, would take care of me when I retired (oh, by the way, thank you for the plaque which has my name misspelled on it.)
I was wrong.
I received a letter in the mail just the other day from the Veterans Administration. In the letter, I was told, in a overly worded 3 page document, that I had been denied my medical benefits upon review of my medical record. I was denied my benefits, not because they (my ailments) do not exist, but because my medical record wasn’t documented enough. In a nutshell, I didn’t complain loudly enough while I was on active duty.
So much for trying to live up to an image.
Since I left the service I have found employment hard to near impossible to come by. With all the talk about PTSD, it seems that no one wants to hire a veteran because they (HROs) fear that if we ‘snap’ while working for them, they might have to pay for our medical bills. I have a meager retirement that is divided between paying my bills and an alimoney check. I’m left with less than 50 bucks in my bank account after all of this. That’s not enough to pay for health insurance.
So, after serving my country for twenty years I have a box full of medals, citations and awards and that is about it.
I don’t even hear from the ‘guys’ I worked with anymore. They don’t want to hear from me.
I have the thanks of a grateful nation who is so ungrateful that they won’t even give me a job and they consider me a liability.
They were happy to send me to war but won’t even look me in the eye during an interview to say “I’m not going to hire you”. They save that for the form letters and messages left on answering machines or no message at all.
I’m now nothing more than a ghost; a mere shadow of what I was which I am not even sure exactly what that was.
I feel a bit betrayed by all of this and, for all my loyalty, I don’t understand this betrayal. I had your back, why didn’t you have mine?
I was a puppet; a marionette, taught to dance the dance my puppeteers made for me.
So, with no further ado, please allow this former Gulf War, Kosovo and Iraq War Veteran to tell the VA and my dear, dear Uncle Sam, Thank you for all that you have, and have not done for me, but also, No thank you.
If I had my dithers, I’d disown my uncle right here and now.