Last week I had a patient who was in the air force and was deployed to Vietnam during the war. He couldn't sleep that night in the hospital so we sat and talked for hours about life and the military and his experience overseas. He told me a story of a day when he wasn't feeling well and had to skip on a mission with the six guys he had been with the entire time he was in Vietnam. He was older when he went into the war and so he kind of took these guys under his wings over there. He loved 'em like family he said and when he woke up the next morning he discovered that the plane had crashed and every single one of them had been killed. To this day he wakes up with nightmares or dreams about them and he told me that every day he lives with guilt for not being with them on that plane.
Today, I met up with a girl I happened to meet on a "what to expect" forum where expectant moms meet up online to share due dates and pregnancy joys and woes along this crazy journey. She happened to mention that she lived in my town and had just moved here cause her husband was stationed here with the navy for the next few years. We exchanged info and we had coffee today and walked around downtown. Her husband is currently gone for six weeks and she told me about all the moves they've had to make and the times he was gone for six months twice. How she is away from family and the support system she had built in their last base. I can't imagine. Sometimes we forget that the families of our soldiers have sacrificed so much too.
Life at the VA has been hard for me these past few years and I've actually been on the hunt for another job. Deciding whether I should leave or not has kept me up at night and has been the source of so much stress for me lately. I'm under appreciated and under paid where I work... my job is always exhausting and hard. The moments where I feel like I actually get to connect with these guys is rare and if I am really honest I feel like a lot of the work I do in the ICU is futile... often times these guys wait so long to get help that the chances of getting better are truly bleak. It's disheartening to say the least.
Still, there is this place deep in me that continues to tug at my heart strings. I was telling my FIL yesterday about a new job opportunity and asking for advice on what to do. When I was explaining to him why I had always loved the VA I felt that familiar lump in my throat start to well up. What our soldiers do is incredibly difficult and what we offer is so very special. A place to be understood. A place where you can share about your time in Vietnam... and an ear to listen from someone who really knows just how PTSD impacts the lives of our service men and women. Some of these guys (and gals) haven't shared some of these stories with their own family even... and yet here I am at 2am hearing the heart of a man so burdened with guilt and sorrow over the loss he experienced decades ago. It is special indeed and I feel so very honored to be the recipient of that kind of trust... and a vessel for healing not only physically but emotionally too.
I don't know where I will end up in the future but for now I want to thank you. Those of you who have given so much of yourself and the families who have sacrificed just the same. Thank you for being brave for us. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you. If you know a veteran please thank them today... or tomorrow... or the day after that. Their sacrifice never really ends and I hope that our thanks never does as well.
Happy Veteran's Day