VETERANS HOSPITALS RE-VISITED

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David Munford after the Battle of LZ-Gold

My brother and I both served in the U. S. Army from 1965 thru 1968. This was during the Viet Nam war and we were both ground pounders. My brother was on the front lines in Viet Nam and I served State Side in Homeland Security with a Secret Clearance in an underground Nike Missile Base, near O’Hare airport. Thank God that my brother came back in one piece although he had some close calls. When I say “Thank God” I mean it because more is happening on the surface of this planet than most of us can see.

My brother, David, was surrounded at one point, at the battle of L.Z. Gold and thought he might not get out of this fight alive (L.Z. = Landing Zone). He said that a sergeant suddenly jumped up on top of an ammo bunker in plain view of both sides and took command of the situation. From his new position, he could better see what and where things were happening. He shouted orders directing his fellow soldiers on how they should fight their way out of this trap. Eventually, under his guidance, they were able to fight off the enemy until help arrived.

After the battle, my brother asked the sergeant why he had exposed himself to hostile enemy fire by standing in plain view on top of that ammo bunker. The sergeants answer was: “I knew that nobody could kill me today!”

When my brother returned home to Brooklyn, New York, he went back to his old banking job in New Jersey which by law was held open to him as was mine. In conversation with one of his old co-workers, he was asked: “You were never harmed while in the war were you?” To which my brother answered: “No, I wasn’t. How did you know that?” The man answered: “I know because you are being protected by angels; I can see them”. To which my brother then responded: “I’m being protected by angels? How and where did they come from?” The man said: “They came from the Old Country and they protected your father. Now that he’s gone, they protect you”.

I have always known that I was protected. Because when I was in a Street Gang, I was involved in a few gang wars (sometimes called “Rumbles”) which were really never that dangerous. Remember, we were mostly teenagers and we were not dealing drugs. This was the “bobby-sox” era for White kids. The real danger was surviving the police and their death threats which I always somehow managed to do. One White male cop while he was fondling me as he held a gun to my head told me that he was surprised that they had not been able to get me yet. But believe me, that was not for their lack of trying. To this day, I have been able to avoid all of their persecutions.

I lived in the Red Hook Projects as did Leroy Revels. Although he was not a criminal and not in the gang. He was shot two or three times in the back by police but survived. His hands were cuffed behind him when they shot him. It seems the cops were extremely brave that day. Perhaps the Angels protected Leroy as well. Who knows?

It is interesting to me how the Angels sometimes worked. As a teenager, I was on a subway platform in Brooklyn when I saw a group of three or four enemy gang members coming towards me. I knew they were going to “jack me up”. Suddenly, a couple of White police officers showed up out of nowhere and this put a chill on these thugs. Now, there is no way these cops wanted to protect me and I know that, but the way things happened, they had no choice but to do their job and I was saved. There have been many other incidents and there is no doubt in my mind that more is going on behind the scenes than what I or we can see.

One of the first things I did when I was released from the service was to register with a Veterans Hospital. I started drawing on my “bennies” meaning benefits as soon as possible. I have never regretted it. And again, the Angels have been protecting me because Veterans Hospitals have not yet been privatized as Republicans have been trying to do. Not too long ago, it was rumored that Republicans lied about troubles in VA Hospitals in an effort to make people think that they needed to be saved when in fact, all they needed was to be protected from privatization by Republicans.

Veterans Hospital, Bronx, New York

Veterans Hospitals are a specialized branch of Health Care. What they specialize in is Service Connected medical issues that cannot be handled the best way in non military facilities. Civilian hospitals just can’t handle a lot of military issues and this is as it should be. Privatization means that to make a profit, Republicans will cut costs. Instead of a twenty-thousand dollar replacement part for my body, I might get one for fifteen or even ten thousand dollars. Might they even use recycled parts? Doctors probably will be threatened to keep them quiet and this might work as most of them don’t make as much as we think. The money saved will go directly into Republican pockets. I hope there will be some soldiers stepping into the breach when their comrades start dying sooner than anyone expected. Those of us who are willing to put our lives on the line to protect this country deserve better than to have Republicans spitting in our faces.

Republicans claimed that V.A. Hospital service was slow with long wait times. They harped on this repeatedly. I’ve been in this hospital system since 1967 and the service has always been good regardless of which hospital I went to. Nothing is perfect, of course, but here’s what the Republicans didn’t mention: Emergency Room (Now called the Emergency Department) care is always available 24 hours a day. If you can’t get a scheduled appointment quickly enough to satisfy you just go to the E.R!  Emergency Room service was there when I needed it. They took me in and treated me for six hours before they sent me home, telling me to come in the next day when results from my tests would be in.

One reason I’m writing this article is because I have a new primary doctor and what I thought was good service has gotten better. I was able to see my primary as a “Walk In” meaning I didn’t need an appointment. In the past, I might have been sent to the E.R. but instead, I was sent to a doctor who had treated me before and was familiar with my issues. I went on a Monday for my regular Physical Therapy session and I asked the therapist to check a sore on my leg. She said you need to see your primary, which I did. What followed amazed me. I was seen by doctors there for the next four days. I was relieved to hear the final verdict: You’re O.K. All the tests came back and the results were all good.

Don’t’ let anyone B.S. you about V.A. Hospitals. They were good in the past and things have gotten better. My brother says that his care in Richmond, Virginia has been “Nothing but Excellent”. Keep the Military Hospitals out of Republicans hands. I say this because they will try again. They will tell whatever lies they can come up with. They have a dismal reputation and to see that, just look at the damage Trump Care would do to the entire country. We can’t let them do something similar to Veterans as I think all Vets, like me, really want to live long and prosper, which is contrary to Republican dreams for us.

All is not perfect, however. There is a big hole in our “bullet proof vests” and it comes through in the area of Dental Care. At age seventy-three, I started having serious dental problems. I needed two emergency surgeries in two weeks which were not cheap and my local dentist gave me a plan costing five thousand dollars just to get me stabilized. I couldn’t pay it all and what work was done has drained all of my savings. One of my dentists jokingly said: “Your teeth all started saying we quit – we’ve had enough!” The bottom line was that I started running low on food and didn’t have any money even for public transportation. My dentist was doing well but I wasn’t. And to add insult to injury, this time, none of my close family members had cash to loan me.

Some serious changes need to be made in veterans care. Right now, we only get dental coverage for “Service Connected” issues. Suppose you stepped on a “Bouncing Betty” land mine. It pops up four or five feet into the air and explodes but it’s defective. As you spin around, facing it, instead of killing you, it just knocks out your front teeth. Or supposed you’re in a tank that gets hit by an armor penetrating round and you lose most of your teeth along with a few large pieces of flesh. Issues like this seem to be what is now covered. We need to do better for our troops who go willingly into harm’s way to protect us. We should be protected as well and not be bankrupted over personal events over which we have no control.

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