25 May 2014
Car Sales in the Army
Rightly or wrong, whenever I hear "…the VA," I cringe. I entered the Army in 1976 for a four year stint as an airborne infantryman but I was an Army Brat and familiar with war stories of servicemen I knew at the Ft Carson Sport Parachute Club. Gordie, a jump master, had 1st degree burns from napalm and I still remember him telling me how they rebuilt his ears. And there were already issues with Agent Orange.
My father told me early in my enlistment that, "…you don't waste lives like they were office supplies." That makes a lot of sense to me and pretty much anyone who has ever heard it. But….
The Army is a big place. In big places, people do things they wouldn't normally do for the sake of the institution. I have no doubt working at any VA hospital is a stressful and an altogether sad job. But they're not getting shot at. Neither was I. Getting out in 1980, I just missed Panama and was happy I did. I had no desire to take anyone's life.
I did jump from airplanes, flip over jeeps, fall off a tank twice and came very close to shooting my squad leader who zagged when he should have zigged into my firing lane. Twenty years ago I had a problem with my lower back. I was x-rayed and the doc asked if I was a gymnast in high school or college due to repeated impact at L4/L5. "I'm not gay,"I said. The Doc laughed and I added, "I jumped out of planes for four years. Could that have something to do with it?"
That doesn't bother me. Mostly because I'm lucky and have decent health insurance. I could afford to avoid the VA. What has bothered me was the "Used Car Salesmanship" the Army and a doctor displayed during my ETS (termination of service) physical. During a hearing test, "raise your finger when you hear the ping" the administrator looked at me and frowned, jotting down the numbers you see that were later crossed out by the doctor. Oddly, a civilian.
The doctor tells me the hearing test results are wrong because, most likely, the machine is screwed up. I ask what that means. The doctor, who looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy in a lab coat, creaks back in his chair and tells me my only option is to extend my service a week until the machine is fixed. I tell him I'm getting out the next day. He tells me it's up to me. So, numbers are changed and my only exception to my health, "My hearing" is scratched out.
Looking back, I was a kid hot to leave Army. I was not hanging around Bragg for another hearing test. How's my hearing? Ask anyone who knows me. It's not Agent Orange but this Memorial Day Weekend, I often reflect on the history of using men, and today women, like they were office supplies. I've talked more than one kid outta joining. In the end, I usually sum it up, "No matter what the Army says, they don't give a shit about you. If you're okay with that -- You're good to go."