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I follow the stories concerning the Veterans Affairs scandal with more than casual interest because I am currently and frequently a resident of VA hospitals due to problems associated with the Vietnam War. My views on this tragic subject, however, are not congruent with what most people would expect.
As one of the very last Americans drafted into U.S. Army service in 1969, I am technically entitled to accept the generous care and benefits our great nation offers, bereft of qualms and devoid of compunctions, except I actually volunteered for the draft to shave one year off of my duty commitment. Hence, I am no less a Merck (mercenary) than my hospital mates, the overwhelming majority of who signed up for far more money than those of us under-the-gun in the 1960s did. (By the way, I say that with pride.)
The issues in the current VA controversy are definitely of the most extreme seriousness, but whether Gen. Eric Shinseki should have resigned at secretary of the VA or not is, in my view, a frivolous debate when contrasted to the necessity of finding and eliminating the bad apples inevitably populating any government bureaucracy.
For the fact of the matter is that my buddies and I inhabiting the West Haven VA facility are more than pleased with our circumstances and the dedicated competence of the civilian employees overseeing us. We are virtually to the last man very appreciative of the care and comfort provided us.
I deem it necessary to articulate this because much of the vitriolic attacks heaped upon Shinseki and VA personnel in general are doubtlessly launched by anti-American sentiment that would find fault with our great nation at each and every opportunity.
I humbly apologize to those truly well-intentioned folks who are genuinely outraged due to their compassionate concern for those of us who militarily sacrificed to preserve the way of life bequeathed us by our Founding Fathers.
They are loyal Americans wearing all political spectrum stripes and us wounded vets are sincerely grateful to them. But others in their midst would attack our great nation just as vigorously over any perceived wrong or even petty slight. Those opportunistic jackals don't move us vets at all.
We who sign on to defend the American way are willing to endure post-military hardship without verbal complaints. We signed on the line, we took the money and benefits, we waged war or whatever, we got hurt, and the blunt facts of the matter are that getting hurt went with the territory and most of us (on a person-for-person basis at least) keep whatever unhappiness we harbor to ourselves, period.
I admit I speak for no one but myself, but after decades of experience as a certified "Nam Nut" I am confident I have our collective situation accurately apprised. We are a stoic breed.
I receive a very handsome pension from our great nation's compassionately generous taxpayers. But if I were told tomorrow I had to surrender every last cent of it to benefit infants born with sundry deformities and/or young girls permanently injured by evil male predators, I'd say, "OK" without blinking an eye. I strongly believe the overwhelming majority of my wounded brethren would do the same thing.
Back in my day, that was how a man was expected to behave, and that remains our philosophy today.
A Vietnam-era veteran, Martin Crane was recently discharged from the VA Hospital in West Haven. He lives in New London.