Veteran, Second-class

There’s always been this suspicion in my heart that I am nothing more than a second-class veteran. Turns out, I’m right.

First, I never received the same educational benefit my Grandpa got following World War II. Nor was I offered the same educational package that my dad earned after Vietnam.

Along with these, once honorably discharged and in the care of the Veterans Administration’s hospital care program, (or whatever it calls itself these days) I’ve never qualified for eye or dental care as my dad and grandpa did. For me, if it isn’t “service related,” it doesn’t exist.

In fact, until I told the VA that I had ideation of suicide, they refused to treat my PTSD and severe depression or bipolar disorder. And the only reason I received physical therapy for my back injury is that the doctor forced the system to admit me as an outpatient.

And now I’ve learned, as I’m filling out a job application, that if I am unable to list myself as a “Protected Veteran;” someone who was in “a war, or campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge was authorized,” then I no longer qualify to be listed as a veteran at all. Neither the Cold War or the War on Drugs counts because no ribbon, badge or official medal have ever been issued.

A one time in the U.S., any man or woman who served this country, receiving an honorable discharge, were military veterans and were given the same care and benefits alike, but no more. Leave it to the federal government to decide that one kind of service is greater than another and to find a way to divide people without using ‘color, race, creed, religion, age, disability or age.’

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Under Foot

He’s certain there’s more rehab to come even after the VA hospital cut him loose. Now a double amputee, both legs gone, one above the knee, the other below, Kraylin continues to navigate a world made for able-bodies.

He doesn’t complain about his inability to walk without losing balance or that escalators still scare the hell out of him. What Kraylin has difficulty with is a nightmare that comes with sleep.

In it, he explains, he bolts wooden shoe stretchers to his stumps, then struggles to walk, “They remind me of what my feet looked like after being blown off.”