Another guest blog from Cobb County Commission Chairman Candidate: Mike Boyce. You can learn more about his campaign at http://www.likemike4cobb.com.
Time is the most precious commodity on the campaign trail and any events that are not campaign-related are given short shrift. Since I began my campaign in earnest last fall, my stack of unread books continues to await, an indirect barometer of the future: If I win the books will continue to gather dust and if otherwise they are a consolation to a battle well fought.
One of the few practices that I have not cast aside is my commitment to veterans, particularly those in need of health care or benefits. As Glen Martin, my favorite patriot with the Disabled Veterans of America so succinctly sums it up, they served so they deserve. So for the last year, almost weekly and sometimes more, I have been taking veterans to the Veterans Administration office in Decatur to assist them in registering for health care or other benefits. Once they enter the portals of the VA hospital they are welcomed and treated as heroes. Members of the staff, regardless of their responsibilities, convey a clear message that all veterans are to be accorded the respect and dignity which their service to America entitles them. The testimonies that I have heard from the veterans that I have shepherded to the VA are an affirmation of the spiritual message that in service you are rewarded with manifold blessings. To have witnessed a wrong corrected after 40 years, a benefit rendered with a savings in the hundreds of dollars, a disability finally recognized and treated and compensation instituted to offset in some small degree the physical sacrifice and pain associated with the affliction, all these are just some of the many chapters in story that I in no way anticipated when I first began this mission.
One such account happened today as I waited for my latest veteran to complete his interview process for health care. A lady sitting next to me struck up a conversation about her husband. He was in the Army during the Vietnam War and was now diagnosed with diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease. All these diagnoses had been determined to be associated with his contact with Agent Orange while in Vietnam. As I listened to this lady talk about her family, her husband, and care for him, I was, in a word, amazed. Several months ago I saw a letter dated in the 1970’s from the VA denying his request for health care for medical conditions associated with Agent Orange because of the lack of any substantiating evidence corroborating the effects of Agent Orange. A generation later there is now a substantial list of illnesses that are “presumed” to be linked to Agent Orange. I could only sit and listen in astonishment as the lady described the litany of treatments and support that the VA was providing for this veteran and his family. They classified him as 100% disabled entitling him to disability compensation and free medical care. His house has been modified at US government expense to accommodate his need for wheel chair mobility. His wife draws compensation as a caregiver. Their drive to the VA hospital is reimbursed with a mileage payment—in cash before they leave for home. Even more remarkable she told me her story without the least measure of sadness or anger. She was proud of her husband, that he had served his country, and that America was not so much attempting to repay him for his sacrifice but to honor him but giving his last days the full spectrum of dignity.
God feeds us humility and humbleness in spoonfuls. As I departed the waiting room with my Vietnam veteran, I stopped by the wheelchair, thanked this lady’s husband for his service and squeezed his hand. His body was undoubtedly drawn tight by the Parkinson’s Disease, but it did not prevent him from looking up and acknowledging my small measure of gratefulness. I was among heroes today and the most common type, unheralded, thankful to be with a family and friends that love them, and believing that their country will not forget or diminish their service.
There is a parable here as Cobb County government closes down senior centers and withdraws financial support for transportation for our special needs population. We need to remind ourselves that ultimately we all will be put into the hands of people to care for us. How that care is delivered and supported speaks volumes about us as a people and our values. I’d like to believe that in our actions Cobb County represents the best intentions of our people and the most caring of our values.