I was watching a local news report today about a charitable project involving the Atlanta Motor Speedway to raise money for our state’s military veterans, and I cheered. I love that there are people out there willing to go to bat for our vets, to make sure that they get all the help and benefits they deserve after they’ve sacrificed their bodies and lives for our freedom.
But, at the same time, my heart hurt. Why is my dad excluded from such things simply because he didn’t lose a limb or die?
Daddy gave 21 consecutive years of his life to this country with pride because he was inwardly driven to serve and protect. He signed up in 1956, which made him one of the first black men to desegregate the U.S. military before Civil Rights, so his was an indescribably painful row to hoe.
Just because his gaping holes and scars aren’t visible doesn’t mean they’re any less terrible.
He was the best soldier he could be, decorated. And yet, with him now suffering severe vascular dementia at age 84, I can find no military source to help with his memory care needs. There is no place for him except sky high-priced custodial homes because he wasn’t wounded in the line of duty. (I would pay any price for his care if I could. But we’re poor people!) As his daughter and caretaker, I can’t even ask for and receive the important military paperwork I need to apply for the additional pension he’s got coming from the government. Why? Because he’s not dead. With him alive, only he can request that paperwork. Doesn’t matter that he can’t respond to verbal commands and doesn’t know what day it is.
Look. I’m the last person in the world to begrudge any wounded veteran care and attention. Like Daddy always taught me, no matter what branch of service, we’re all related. We’re all family.
I simply don’t understand how he can give so many years and still be cast aside.