Monday, October 26, 2009

Memorial Gardens

I've only been inside only one VFW hall in my entire life. That was in Woodland, Washington. I went to let them know there would be a special worship service two blocks down the street last November. We would honor and pray for vets, provide a brunch. I wrote the service. Led it in my U.S. Air Force uniform. Nobody from the VFW came. They had a better dinner of their own.

I was glad to leave the VFW hall. The cigarette smoke inside was so thick that my eyes watered. I had to wash my clothes after having been in there only five minutes.

While in Nebraska last month, I took pictures in my hometown. I've never been to the VFW here, but I notice they have a patriotic bench. Anybody can come for the food and drink. They are open Sundays. Just like church.

They provide color guards at local cemeteries for Memorial Day and Veterans' Day ceremonies. Probably do also for funerals of deceased vets in the community. If anyone wants.

They have a Memorial Garden on the west side of the building. It obviously needs a little paint on the fence. Could use some gardening, too. I wonder how long it's been like this and if it ever looked better.
I often wonder how much some of this means to most Americans these days.

I served four years of my life during the sixteen years that America was mired in Vietnam. Now, I don't have any difficulty figuring out how life here was improved and secured by our involvment in World War II. But really, when I look at either my 31-year-old daughter or my nieces and nephews and their kids, how were their lives made better by our 16 years in Vietnam? Please tell me soon.

Over 39 years ago, a college friend Wayne and his wife Susan emigrated to Canada. Wayne wanted to avoid serving in the military here. I stayed and served because I wanted to have a voice in the future of our country.

Now, Jean and I are wondering if we made the wrong decision to stay here--even after returning from my Air Force duty overseas. Jean has had a very tough time this year--after tougher and tougher ones the past several. Kids at school are becoming more unruly by the year. Maybe by the month. She gets depressed on weekends thinking about going back to school every Monday. But what else can she do? She's our health insurance. We couldn't afford it on our own. With a previous brain tumor on your medical charts, what new private insurance plan would call it anything but a non-covered pre-existing condition? Would she be denied insurance if she found a different job? At twice or three times the going rate? What employer would even want her on their plan? But how healthy is it to stay in a job that depresses a person every day?

Our friends who went to Canada face no such predicament. They could change jobs anytime they wanted. No concerns about loss of health insurance. Not an issue. No matter what happens in the future, they will never be denied health insurance coverage, never face the prospect of bankruptcy over health care costs. I remember when their first daughter Claire was born in the mid 70's. It cost them a buck-fifty to buy a nursing bra for Susan. That's it.

Take a look at that memorial garden. If that's a memorial garden, then I don't know what either a memorial or a garden is.

America's health care system and costs are bankrupting the country. So-called "reforms" being proposed won't really be any more sustainable than the current unsustainable system, so far as I can tell. Any better than that memorial garden? Don't think so.

It's been 34 years since Saigon fell and America's travail in Vietnam officially ended. Do we know and celebrate what it got us? Anything besides smoky VFW halls and forgotten memorial gardens? We really ought to have a good answer. Oughtn't we?

Where is our unsustainable health care delivery system going with us? Where will we be in five years, ten years? Twenty? We ought to know the answer to these questions. 'Cuz, like it or not, we're going there. Then, what will we tell our kids? They may expect an answer.

Veterans' Day is coming. Visited a memorial or a VA hospital lately? No? They're smoke-free. Open Sundays, too.

Now, what are we going to do with these things and what they got us?


No comments: