Just a Thought: A Veteran’s storyBy Steve Walker
Last week San Antonio celebrated Memorial Day at various locations around town. My La Prensa column last Sunday addressed not only the history and background of the national holiday, but listed the various places family, friends and Veterans could attend to honor those who served and died for the preservation of freedom.
In my case I participated in a well-attended ceremony at Fort Sam Houston Cemetery despite the torrential rainfall. As luck would have it the rain hit moments after the ceremony concluded to everyone’s relief as everyone scurried to get to their vehicles. As a Viet Nam and Desert Storm Veteran, I alternate each year between the Edgewood Memorial Stadium ceremony and the bigger gathering at Ft. Sam Houston to honor those heroes who served. The year before I attended Edgewood’s ceremony.
As a former teacher at Memorial High School I have ties to both places as my father is buried at Fort Sam having served in the Second World War. The Edgewood Class of 1967, I noted last week, has the dubious distinction of losing more graduates as casualties in the Viet Nam War than any other high school in the San Antonio Metroplex.
It was a great salute to all those from the San Antonio area who have worn the Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force or Coast Guard uniform during the 1st and 2nd World Wars, Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Some in attendance had relatives who actually served as far back as the Civil War when the holiday was first originated. The closing remarks were given by the Director of the Selective Service Larry Romo appointed by President Barack Obama as only the second Hispanic and local San Antonio native to serve in that position. I have previously written about Romo in a past La Prensa column.
Unfortunately we have recently been inundated with horror stories by the national media about revelations that Veterans at various VA hospitals across the country have been denied medical treatment and may have died due to extremely long waits between doctor visits.
Since the various news outlets have covered stories of alleged misconduct by VA officials, numerous veterans have shared with me their concerns about the length of time it takes to get responses on their disability claims.
One of my fellow veterans shared with me that he filed a claim nearly two years ago for the effects of exposure to Agent Orange, loss of hearing, failing eyesight, and various other ailments connected to his service in Viet Nam. Ironically my buddy served a tour with another unit down the road from my unit in Phu Bai, which overlapped my tour by one month although I never knew he was there until the mid-90s when we met and compared notes.
Another Veteran buddy shared with me that he applied for disability last year and was finally scheduled for a physical this year nearly 13 months later. He was discouraged when he showed up for his physical and the Doctor hastily asked him to breathe, tapped his feet for nerve damage and asked three questions before being arbitrarily dismissed after ten minutes. He shared that he was very discouraged. However, his arduous journey was eventually successful as he was awarded an acceptable amount of disability that also included a reduction in his property tax. The letter he received also stated that the disability awarded would be back dated to the date he originally filed his claim so he received that compensation.
With all the added problems now facing Veterans, those we celebrated last week and hopefully throughout the year will now be given the treatment they so deserve in a timely manner. We can only hope and pray that happens.
And as always, I write “Just a Thought.”
Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran, former Journalist and Justice of the Peace.