My blood’s boiling

It is rare indeed when I get so angry the urge to be physically violent takes over. I got that angry (and then some) this morning when I read a Facebook post from the person I love and trust the most on the planet announcing he was on his way the VA Emergency Room because he’d received a letter from the VA giving him a hearing date so he can prove he is missing his legs. Michael Sulsona,a Staten Island resident, is a 62-year-old Vietnam veteran. A once (and always) United States Marine. He is an award winning playwright and screenwriter. He lost both  legs above-the-knee during the war in January 1971 when he stepped on a mine. Recently the VA has taken a merciless run at him and, no doubt, many others. First, it sends him notice informing him  it wants to reduce his disability because, it explains, he is only missing his feet. He recently quipped, “Hey, no one whose ever met me has called me the guy who’s missing his feet.” 

When it comes to veterans who’ve experienced the flat-out horror of combat, I don’t give a damn who you are; I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Liberal, Libertarian, Independent, Tea Party, Coffee Party or no party, you (and I) are well-advised to show respect (I think most Americans do) and treat them with respect. Don’t even think about pretending you understand what they’ve been through.You don’t because you can’t. And, when you see any of them getting brutalized by the system, like the entire country is seeing now in the latest disgrace of veterans suffering and dying because of bogus Veterans Administration waiting lists, you should speak up.  Also, if you think the mistreatment of veterans goes on under this White House’s watch only, you’re dreaming. It’s gone on for years under Republican and Democrat administrations.

Were there justice for veterans like Michael, never again would they have to worry about receiving quality healthcare in a timely manner. Never again would they have to worry about having enough money to pay the bills and function comfortably in life. Never again would any of them find themselves in the humiliating position of having to prove the wounds of war, particularly when those wounds are so glaringly evident.

That American Soldier

He is in full dessert camouflage and boots standing on a sidewalk not far from the Sears and Roebuck Merchandise Pick-up Entrance. He is an American soldier. At the moment he is talking with someone on his cell phone. His posture is straight, strong. He is powerfully built. I put him somewhere in his twenties.

My window is down as I slow my car in front of him. I start to tap my horn to draw his attention but as soon as my car slows I have his attention. His eyes are locked on mine. Still on the phone, watching. I think slowing cars must carry a different meaning for him.

Looking at each other I say, “Thank you – and stay safe.”

He relaxes into a genuine smile. “Thank you, sir,” he says, and he means it.

“God bless you, bro.”

We nod to each other. I slowly drive away. He returns to his phone conversation. I am suddenly near tears, so much so I can barely see to drive.

Why the tears?

Was it his youth? Was it the distinct feeling I had that he was saluting me when he said, Thank you, sir, when I should be saluting him? Or, was it simply heartbreak at the ineffable violence he has witnessed and endured? Was this compounded, perhaps, with my firsthand knowledge that nothing, not even dessert camouflage and boots, protects any of us from the split-second blood-drenched carnage of bombs and bullets, of violence?

That young man, that American soldier. That mother’s son, wife’s husband. That brother’s brother, sister’s brother, that grandson, that flesh and blood human being who deserves his life, as do so many others. And while all of us should be willing to go, none of us should be called to go based on lies, born of the maniacal minds of the Bush-Cheney disgrace. Those two should be in jail.

That American soldier should be free.