War Drums at the VA

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VA Waiting Room

Wonder if Senator McCain or Senator Kerry hang around VA waiting Rooms? Or even visit them? (I know – dumb questions.) Interesting events play out in VA waiting rooms. The waiting room includes two functions for Vets. It is an end point and a way-point for our Nation’s Vets. The good senators are musically inclined guys. As of March 8, 2011 both of them are beating war drums, blowing bugles for assembly and preparing to signal CHARGE! * Get a guy with a flute and the good senators can form their own fife and drum corp.

Perhaps Vets with nothing better to do than hang around VA waiting rooms, they could help our elected legislators with their musical Corp? The good guys from D.C. could even send their musical Corp ashore into Libya with the Jarheads they are demanding be landed to save the world from the Libyan horde set to invade Europe and America. Gotta add to the bill folks (butcher’s bill that is)!

Or:

Maybe, just maybe the senators would take a hard look at what is in the waiting room. Elderly men from World War II are there. Many are in wheel chairs pushed into the waiting room by sons, daughters, and grandkids. Korean War Vets manage to walk in under their own power, often with the use of a cane. Vietnam Vets forget they are old men and walks in without the cane – many of them are beginning to need. A few guys from side wars including Myaguez, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Somalia and more from the first Gulf War are there – showing the signs of aging. The young ones are there now. Especially the traumatic brain injury/PTSD cases. Some of the young guys have intact brains but struggle with severe PTSD.

Our good senators need to take a look at the guys waiting for nightmare resolution therapy – the ones for whom sleep is horror. There are guys waiting for anger management who yell at the news on the convenient waiting room television. Other Vets are waiting in dozens of different clinics – trying to learn how to live in the civilian world. Most of the Vets won’t make it. They are changed – forever – therapy can and does help them cope. Sounds, smells, weather; noise, social situations contain messages, threats and situations for these people that civilians never know. The nice well-dressed guys and girls in D.C. are working hard for us folks, very hard at adding to the group of Americans that hang around VA waiting rooms.

Perhaps our senators will notice a poignant addition to the VA waiting room. Young women are their now too. See them sitting off to side, alone? Many of them are alone. Maybe our war drum beating senators could ask them why they are alone – without help except for dedicated family members and some really good VA people. ?

The guys and young women in VA waiting rooms are components of a process. This process includes waypoints. They include:

1. To qualify for membership in the VA waiting room club – many vets become:

Blooded – “To subject recruits to a baptism of fire” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 1969 Ed.). The Military of our country includes 3,060,000 members including reservists. Our country has about 305,816,827 people living in it. Members of the military make up a bit less than 2% of the population of The United States of America. Not all members of the military go through the rite of Military passage of being blooded. Few “fire a shot in anger” or are under enemy fire. From blooded our Vets go on to become “seasoned” – able to function in combat as an effective, thinking killing machine.

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2. What then makes a COMBAT VET? Awards give some indication. They are:

United States Army: Combat Infantry Badge
Combat Action Badge

United States Air Force: Air Force Combat Medal

United States Navy }
United States Coast Guard } Combat Action Ribbon
United States Marine Corps}

In order to receive one of the combat awards the Service Member must actually experience battle. **

Service Members who have experienced the shock of battle differ from those who have not. Many develop behaviors that distinguish them as having been
blooded. The more they are in combat – the more profound the change. They become very aware of noise, movement, color and the shape of objects. Infantry become very good at analyzing terrain (ground to civilians). They become experts at killing too. What then is done to prepare young people to become blooded? (They also tend to look at many people in the civilian world as fools – those who do not appreciate the blessing of peace.)

3. It begins with enlistment in one our Military Services. The prospective GIs, Marines, Airmen, Sailors and Coastguardsmen must complete an oath. They swear to:

Each will swear an oath. For active duty or reserves it is:
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

For Americans enlisting in the National Guard the oath is:
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of (STATE NAME) against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the Governor of (STATE NAME) and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So help me God.

4. Following enlistment recruits are “shipped” to basic training.

For the Navy aspiring Sailors go boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Chicago Illinois. Those that wish to live well in the Military go to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Those who desire to be fresh water Sailors attend basic training at Cape May New Jersey for the Coast Guard. Marine Recruits are sent to the East Coast resort of Paris Island South Carolina. The tough Marine Recruits are sent to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego California (where they get to where sunglasses). The Army trains Infantry Recruits at the very demanding Grunt School at Fort Benning Georgia. Non Infantry MOS’s (military occupational specialty) train at different bases. Prospective Engineers train at Fort Leonard Wood Missouri. Future Cannon Cockers (whom are intelligent, articulate and lend grace to the military art) meet at Fort Sill Oklahoma. Tread Head Types (Armor) visit Fort Knox Kentucky. Fort Jackson South Carolina is the remaining Army Basic Training Center.

Basic training indoctrinates young men and women. It takes them from the civilian world and “gets their feet wet” by including them in military life. Eating, sleeping, rest rooms, showers, walking, talking, the way one stands, turns around, left, right, half-left, half-right and walks and turns are relearned. The recruit undergoes a transformation from civilian to Sailor, Coastie, Airman, Soldier and Marine. Remember the men and women in the VA waiting room. Each of them without exception has been though basic training. They leave behind the values of the civilian world and become what a lotta left leaning types abhor – militarists! ***

Recruits are taught to obey, especially in ground gaining arms, i.e. Infantry. It isn’t a debating group. Orders are obeyed, now! Civilians, some of them can not understand this concept of military discipline. I have given up trying to get the average civilian to understand the requirement for obedience in a military organization.

Consider one example of indoctrination and training – Marine Basic Training – The Crucible:

The Crucible A Rite of Passage for all Marines The Crucible is the 54-hour culmination to the transformation of recruit training. It is a physically and mentally challenging event that involves food and sleep deprivation and the completion of various obstacles for the potential Marine to negotiate. Basic Facts
 Recruits will travel 48 miles on foot during the event.
 There are 29 problem-solving exercises during the Crucible.
 It consists of 36 different stations.
 The recruits will have three meals, ready-to-eat (MREs) during the 54 hours.
 The recruits will be required to carry 45 pounds during the Crucible, in addition to 782 gear, uniform and M16 A2 service rifle weight.

Note please – three meals for two (2) plus days, little sleep and intense physical exertion. The crucible does not come close to real combat experience. It does however indoctrinate the young recruits into physical and mental demands required of men who face other men in battle.

The United States Army Infantry basic training course at Fort Benning Georgia is a very tough and difficult bit of military life. It concludes the basic training program with a 25-mile force march carrying packs in excess of 50 pounds, weapon and ancillary equipment.

The indoctrination and transition from civilian to military continues – waypoints!

5. Following basic training the new Solider, Sailor, Coastie, Airman and Marine is now ready to defend America and take on all enemies. O.K. – what really happens is some go to advanced individual training schools others go directly to their assigned unit. Infantrymen are assigned to a fire team, squad, platoon, company, battalion, regiment/brigade, division, Corp, army and finally a theater. Some are sent to a CONUS or OCONUS assignment. **** Those that are sent OCONUS may be assigned to a line unit in combat. They receive their “baptism of fire” and become blooded. Over the length of their tour and if they survive these young men will become seasoned troops. Confident, competent young men that cope with any situation. They are (and may always be) killers. Killers upset the left leaning types. Truth is Infantrymen kill people and destroy property. It is really all that simple. Not complicated at all!

6. Along the way 88mike Truck Drivers, 11bravo Infantrymen 13bravo Cannon Cocker and other MOS’s change. Often the change occurs quickly. For some the process takes place over the course of a tour, six to twelve months. This change becomes more imbedded the more combat the Troops experience. Troops that walk point, carry a tactical radio, are included in main body, are assigned to tail end charlie or an OP or and LP (especially at night), drive down roadways that known to be mined, clear minefields, and kill with semi-automatic pistols, rifles, hand-grenades, light-medium-heavy machines guns, mortars, artillery, knives, ammo boxes, fists, feet, that strangle, bludgeon other people to death as an instrument of national policy, are changed forever! Of course, many people do not want to discuss unpleasant aspects of warfare. Those components of war that go beyond parades, medals and speeches.

7. Following basic and advanced training, acceptance into a unit, assignment to a combat zone and completion of their tour of duty, troops were to CONUS. They continue their military career or retired or discharged from the Military. Some return to CONUS via the medical evacuation system. For the wounded, a different crucible begins for them. They are TRIAGED and begin a treatment plan. ***** All of them, those that survive begin the process of living in a world alien to civilians and members of the military that do not experience the horror of warfare. Remember too that many of the Troops have two, three, four, five and six or more deployments to war zones. Simple acts including waking into a restaurant, going to a movie, waking down a street, sitting in a living room are different for the returned Troop.

8. After their initial adjustment to CONUS Veterans adapt a lifestyle to live in the civilians world. The civilian world isn’t theirs. They don’t belong there. Many of the Vets would, if they could return to a combat zone. It is where they believe they belong. For the physically and/or psychologically wounded Vets must now cope with the Military Treatment System and all of its complexities and challenges and/or the Veterans Administration. Along the way Troops meet many caring, dedicated people. People that work very hard with loving devotion for the wounded and injured. Loving caring people are assigned to the Military Treatment System and the VA. Tragically there are many uncaring destructive people employed in both systems. Some are cruel and exert efforts to the detriment of the Troop and/or Vet. Vets still in the Military have options. They can complain to the IG (Inspector General) and/or request to speak to a NCO or Officer in their chain of command. A private E-1 in the Army can speak to a General if he or she believe they need to. Of course they must go through their chain of command. The system is there and it works. Troops do have a method of complaint. Not so in the VA. Vets can speak to their health care providers, caseworkers, and schedulers, for new Vets the OIF/OEF representatives (who do good things for younger Vets) and patients advocate if one can be located. Vets can not speak to any of the VA administrators. They have no access to hospital directors or anyone in the VA hierarchy! The VA will not provide contact phone numbers or addresses for any of their officials. Call a VA Hospital and ask to speak to the head VA type. If you get through – you are a historical exception to the rule! VA Regional Centers – no dice. Call and you talk to someone sitting at a computer terminal in who knows where. O.K. – what about the Vets that have issues, are brain-damaged? Without help – they walk away.

8.A Vets – some not far removed from battlefields – once they leave the military (I know MTF’s (Note 1) have a separate set of issues and concerns and employ far too many civilians with a don’t give a dam about the Troop attitude) are on there own. The service organizations can and do provide expert help for the Vet. The Vet must confront forms, documents and a blinding blizzard of bureaucracy. (Recall please these are the young men and women – many not all that long ago were killing people for The United States of America – the problem of bureaucracy often angers young Vets and adds to their bitterness)!

8.B One very competent and exceptional Veterans Counselor at the county level told me: “More than half of Vets walk away from the benefits. They simply give up. It is that complicated”. The Vet changed by battle experience, with a different set of values than civilians live by must prove they were wounded in battle. Prove their disability was incurred in the Military. Proof (I know there are rules saying the VA must help with the proof). Proof, proof, proof. Often Vets don’t have the proof and will not jump through the hoops to get it. One Vet missing large portions of his torso and a piece of his skull had to submit United States Army documents to the VA documenting the body parts were blown off of him by an enemy RPG in combat. Another Vet’s family has submitted the same eight- (8) inch stack of VA, civilian and military documents to the United States Army and the VA so many times they have literally lost count. Last time the documents were mailed the fee was over $17.00 for the stack of copies of government forms. Yes, the Vet has to pay to prove they were wounded in action, in United States Government Service, again and again and again. PTSD Vets fill out forms – lots of them – describing the traumatic event over and over again. Might not be a big deal to many civilians? It is to those who have completed a passage of lines (Note 2) at 0230 on a dark and scary night. The VA system does a lot of good for Vets – but many find it a very demanding and complex ordeal. No wonder many Vets walk away. Solution? Don’t know. Who could repair the “system”? Vets do get care. Many would get nothing without the VA. Lot of good comes from the VA.

9. Back to the waiting room. Many Vets find their endpoint in the VA waiting room. For many it is all they have. Vietnam Vets still living with the nightmare of betrayal by the country and institutions that sent them to war gather in VA waiting rooms. They are there with Vets from the other conflicts. Children, grandchildren, sons, daughter, wives, husbands, helpful people, they’re there also. None but the Vets understand what brings them to the endpoint of the VA waiting room. For most – warfare becomes a life-long issue. Young Vets from Iraq and Afghanistan – unable to cope with being subjected to attacks, again and again and on and on and on – and taking it. Refused authorization to return fire. Over the years of these two wars the rules of engagement – required by civilians and filtered down through multi-layered chains-of-command, often by people with no battle experience – have destroyed the sleeping and waking moments of many young Vets. Sentenced them to a lifetime of bitterness and feelings of betrayal. Want proof? It is readily available in any VA waiting room. Go see it for yourself.

10. Back to the John and John Drum Corps. Beat the drum guys. Invade Libya. Destroy their airforce. Blow up their cities and kill their babies, children, moms and dads. Crate more misery and horror. Spend more tax dollars on VA waiting rooms – you gonna need more space guys!

Or:

Peace Groups – agitate now! Prevent another war, now! Once our planes, ground and naval forces are given the mission to intervene in Libya – and the first United States bombs are dropped – the first Grunt shoots a Libyan or is shot by him – it is too late. Were gonna be in Libya a long time. Many will die and VA waiting room professionals will be created. It is really as simple as that.

Senators McCain and Kerry. Both know better. Almost always, peace is an excellent alternative to war! Put your drums away. (Note 3)

Dale R. Suiter
Atlanta Michigan
March 9, 2011

Notes

* Military forces as signal devices traditionally used Bugles, drums and fifes – for both garrison and combat. Musical instruments are used almost always in a ceremonial purpose in modern military organizations.

** The Combat Action Badge, Combat Action Ribbon and the Air Force Combat Medal date from the mid 1960’s to present day. Many Combat Vets were never awarded combat specific awards. This in no way diminishes their status as Combat Vets! Often, REMF’s, Pouges and Fobbits con their way into awards, including combat awards they do not deserve. This explanation emphasizes that many brave men and women who were actually in combat did not receive honorably earned combat awards. This disgraceful issue is rather common, unfortunately to warfare. No cure for it. Always been this way and always will.

*** O.K. There will always be a few who have served in the Military that hate it. These types want some mythical government that gives and provides the PEOPLE everything. The average man and woman do well in the Military and is proud of their service. I am correct. Anyone that does not agree with me has no concept of reality. Yes, I am correct folks. Deal with it. Facts are facts are facts unless you are one of the: “Don’t confuse me with the facts my mind is made up!”

**** CONUS – Continental United States / OCONUS Outside Continental United States

***** TRIAGED – In mass casualty situation wounded/injured/diseased people are placed into categories of first care. The categories include:
A. Expectant – these people will die. Color code black (morgue). They may be medicated and placed in an area out of view to expire.
B. Immediate – people that can, with immediate medical treatment survive. Resource intensive including follow-up care. Color code red.
C. Delayed – people needing medical care that can wait without danger to their well being. Color code yellow.
D. Minor – People with minor injuries needed simple medical procedures. Few resources needed to treat them. Color code green.
Other color code systems exist for TRIAGE – depending upon the medical jurisdiction.

Note 1: MTF – Military Treatment Facility
Note 2: Passage of lines – military process where one military organization walks through the lines of another military organization. Often completed in darkness and under combat conditions. Can be a complex or simple event depending on combat levels.
Note 3: The United States Military can not on its own initiative declare war or invade anyone or anything. Our Military responds to civilian orders.

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