Friday, November 11, 2011

Honoring Veterans

Having been unsure what to write about this week, today I've been furiously
brainstorming fun topics. I thought about the curious date today, 11/11/11. 
I love dates like today's, and for the same mysterious reason I'm excited 
when my car's mileage turns to a single recurring number such as 55,555.
The corners of my mouth upturn, and I revel in the momentary numerical
perfection. But how could I write about numbers without lulling my readers
into a delightful afternoon nap?

Then it hit me like a lightning bolt from above. It's Veteran's Day... . Having
served in the U.S. Air Force for four years active duty, it's only natural
I should write about what it means to be a veteran. Why had it taken me 
so long to come to this conclusion? I blame it on being pregnant, and what
little brain cells I have left are being starved of energy, which is being
diverted to the tiny inch and a half long human growing in my belly. How
can something so small require so much? That's another discussion for
another time. 

I originally joined the Air Force to pay for the last year of my Bachelor's
degree and because I believed it was the best venue for practicing 
the best nursing care. "Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence
in All We Do," are the core values of the Air Force, all of which resounded
with my own beliefs. It was somewhere you could expect your coworkers
to give %110 every day. 

The challenges I faced shaped me into the person I am today and gave 
me a backbone to stand up for myself where I hadn't in the past. Although
there were difficulties, mostly interpersonal in nature, I'd do it again in 
a heartbeat. There's a special sense of patriotism that comes with 
having served in our nation's military, one that I'm not sure someone
could know without that experience. I know there are a great many
people who have not served who are deeply patriotic, but it's different
when you've volunteered service to protect our great country. 

Having been non-line or medical was also different from those who 
served more directly. I was never deployed overseas, but I took care
of many who were. I was also fortunate to care for those who had 
served during Vietnam and World War II. There are a few I know I'll
never forget. One was a seemingly tiny shriveled old man who was
admitted to our unit at least twice a month. He always stayed in the
same room, one close to the nurse's station that was also video 
monitored. Need I say more? He routinely cursed us for not letting
him have a glass of water to "wet his mouth," and barked orders
as I'm sure he was used to in days of old. Now, we weren't 
vindictive, cold hearted nurses. This particular precious patient
was continually admitted with aspiration pneumonia, which 
meant when he took a drink of anything, it went straight to his lungs. 
We couldn't trust him to "just wet his mouth." 

Because of this condition, he had a G/J tube which directly accessed
his stomach and small intestine. It was through this crude tube that
he received liquid feedings attached to a pump. Poor man couldn't 
eat or drink anything. I can't say I fully blame him for having been 
non compliant. Imagine not being able to eat your favorite foods, 
let alone holiday meals. Life without pumpkin pie? That's just
wrong. So was the latter portion of this weary soul's existence, 
temptation to taste, and his favorite was coffee. 

One year, within a week of Christmas, we received the sad news
he had passed. We read his obituary aloud at the nurse's station.
The list of accomplishments was long and commendable, but what
humbled us the most was that this man had been a green beret 
paratrooper, I think during World War II, but that's testing my 
memory a bit. All the years we had taken turns taking care of him,
we never knew his story. 

Our country's freedom has been bought with a precious price over
the years, right back to the birth of our nation. May we never take 
for granted the privilege it is to be an American and the freedoms
we enjoy. Let's appreciate, honor, and value those who have 
given so much for us and take the time to listen to their stories.


  1. Great post Tanya! My husband's grandmother died from pneumonia. Poor thing. I remember her not being able to eat or drink anything and just dying for some water...and ice cream.

  2. Thanks, Esther. I can't even imagine not being able
    to have anything by mouth. Yes, ice cream would be
    what I would be craving. Hope you're feeling well!