Medical care should not be another battle our veterans have to fight

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American flag with light shining through it

It’s been in the news of late and it tugs at my thoughts on a daily basis.

Veterans have been forced to wait weeks, even months, for medical care. Reaching a diagnosis is delayed while veterans are left suffering, leaving some to die while waiting.

Diagnostic tests, when finally ordered through a VA medical site, sometimes go unprocessed, long waiting lists keep getting longer, appointments lost or rescheduled without explanation or apology.

Our nation’s heroes

It seems shameful and inconceivable that something of this magnitude can happen in this country. These are folks who showed up, who boarded a bus even though fear had to have nearly paralyzed them.

These are our nation’s heroes, many leaving home when they were still children, to lay down their life for this country. In many cases, young boys signed up without first gaining their parents’ permission. The fight could not wait, war was being waged. There were no excuses made or delays considered for these good people who wanted to serve their country.

Befriending a vet

Through my writing, I became friends with a World War II veteran when my children were still very young. Bill Choma, a shy man who was alone in the world, reached out to us by sending cards and letters to me.

He said writing came easier than speaking, and many of his letters carried wonderful old Hungarian recipes his mother had left behind. Crullers sprinkled with powdered sugar became one of the treats he made just to share with us, arriving in a small box in the day’s mail.

He realized how much children enjoy a piece of mail addressed to them, and often two separate cards arrived that brought sure smiles. I wrote long letters to him, filling his lonely days with farm news, sharing community happenings and stories of my children. He decided he wanted to meet us and see our place, and made the three-hour trip from his farm to ours, the last road trip he ever attempted.

Veteran visit

He wanted to watch my kids play in a ball game, so we scheduled his visit on a summer day that their games were scheduled back to back at our village ballfield.

We talked that day of his service to our country, some of my father-in-law’s war stories shared, though neither gentlemen talked much about specific experiences. Bill named ports he had seen that sounded familiar. He described homesickness that could bring a giant to his knees, and it was intensified by the unknown.

No one knew, when pushing off from home, the length of time ’til a fellow would see home and loved ones, if ever. I thanked him, when we talked or shared letters, for his service. He said that spoken gratitude always took him by surprise, claiming he didn’t do anything to be considered heroic.

It was simply the right thing to do.

He loved his country, his parents having come here from Hungary as young adults searching for a better life.

Soldier’s appreciation

When he became too frail to write, I continued sending cards and letters. One day we received word that he had died, and we had been included in his will, a small amount of money set aside “in recognition of a family’s appreciation of an old soldier.”

It goes without saying: Every veteran deserves our respect and gratitude.

Medical care, without delay, should not be yet another battle our veterans have to fight.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

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