Friday's Weekend Column
A Trip To The Veterans Hospital

by James Glaser
October 24, 2003

It took me over twenty years of going to the VA, to get a Primary Care Physician. Before that happened I would go to the medicine clinic and see a different doctor every time and would feel pretty good if the doctor I was seen by, could speak English. I kid you not, many times I would keep having to say "what?" It was like they picked doctors that were working on English as a second language. After a few years at the VA they would be able to speak well enough to start their own practice.

Now I have the same doctor every time I have an appointment and if any tests are needed this doctor sets up appoints with which ever clinic is needed. Then when the results come back, I go back to my Primary Care Physician and the results are explained to me along with any other questions I have. I know this system saves lots of money as my appointments at the VA have been cut in half.

There are still thousands of guys going to that medicine clinic and coming out talking to themselves, having no idea of what the doctor said to them. I asked my doctor how many patients she has to care for and she said, nine hundred. The day I was there she was seeing one veteran after the other, with no breaks. She always knows me and asks about Charmaine. They have a lot of great people working for the Department of Veteran Affairs, just not enough of them.

The Minneapolis Veterans Hospital is 255 miles south of here and every time I go, I see many interesting people. The place is always packed and as you walk down the halls, you see people with no legs, one leg, one arm, blind people, and people with big hunks out of them. You see every age group and as you get older you wonder why they let these young kids in the service. It gets harder to remember just how young you were when you went in.

Like every VA Hospital in the country, the wounded from Iraq are starting to show up and it is sad to think we have learned so little since I was in combat. Most countries in this world haven't been to war for over fifty years, while America is almost in almost constant conflict some place on this globe and we have to wonder why some people hate us.

One of the guys I was talking to while waiting for my appointment pointed out the fact that the United States has 6% of the world's population, but we want to tell the other 94% how they should live.

One young man told me he had been sick ever since coming home from the first Gulf War and that he was down to ninety five pounds, about half of his weight while in the Army. His arms and legs were constantly moving. He had lost his job, his wife, and his house. He didn't blame his wife for leaving, as he was sick all the time. He felt good that they didn't have any children.

I asked everyone that I struck up a conversation with, if we should be in Iraq. Only two said yes and when I asked them if they had ever seen combat, they both said no. I have never met a combat vet that wanted others to go to war.

It is hard to realize what we are doing to our young people by sending them to Iraq. Even if they never suffer a wound, every one of them will be scarred for life. I am sure after a year over there every one of them will have seen enough horror to last them forever. We haven't been there that long yet and already the Army is trying to figure out why so many are committing suicide. Many more will, after they get home and find that they no longer fit in.

Combat puts a brand on you that only you can see, but it is there. You don't laugh at the same things anymore. In fact you don't do anything the same anymore. Most things aren't fun and you find yourself drifting off thinking about what might have been.

Time spent in a war is like total waste of your life. After you come home you spend more time during the rest of your life thinking about that war, than the actual amount of time you were in the war.

Friday's column is supposed to be about life in Northern Minnesota and this one is. There are thousands of veterans from every war living up here and every one of them is touched by the Veterans Hospital and its Clinics sometime in their life. There are many veterans suffering from wounds to their bodies and their minds. Many of those veterans never let on to family and friends how much the war effected them, but when you are talking one on one, veteran to veteran, they open up. Every one needs someone to talk to and that is one of the best benefits the Veterans Hospital gives to us, the chance to talk to other veterans that have the same feelings and the same problems that we do.

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