A woman veteran
(VA hospital Atlanta Georgia)
I had to go to the VA hospital yesterday here in Atlanta, to pick up a report of an MRI that I had done in February 2009. I am having another one this coming Monday and the doctor may need it for comparison. It was Wednesday so it was very busy. When I asked for the records department I was sent down to the ground floor to the ‘file’ department. When I arrived I of course had to fill out some paper work.
As I was waiting a woman came and sat down next to me. She wanted directions to another department but I had no idea where it was. The VA hospital is very large with many parallel hallways, so it can be confusing. We talked a bit. When I first saw her I though she might be in her early forties. As she talked about her military stint, I gathered that she was much younger than she looked. She was in Afghanistan for two tours over a four year period. I am not sure what her medical problems were of course, but from the way she talked I gathered that she suffered a head wound. She talked intelligently but very slowly with a slight stutter. Her mind seemed clear, but her ability to speak was curtailed a bit.
So perhaps she was in her early thirties at most. As she talked I could tell that she had some bitterness about her time in Afghanistan and little respect for its people. At first I was taken back, but that did not last long, for it was obvious that she had a very difficult time there and saw a lot, perhaps more than I could take if I was there in her place. Emotional healing, like physical recuperation takes a lot of time. I found myself liking her very much and enjoyed just being with her.
An employee of the VA walked up to her and started talking. They knew each other and her friend took her away to the department she was looking for. In a few minutes I got my MRI report and went up to the first floor of the VA hospital. When I got out of the elevator I saw her sitting there near another office waiting to be called in. I walked up to her to say goodbye and to let her know how nice it was to meet her. I was touched by my time with her and felt a connection.
War is ****, I think at times the lucky ones are those who die clean and fast. Many who come back have a lifetime of pain and suffering from what they experienced. Seeing friends getting shot and blown up I am sure does damage to the psyche. Also seeing women and children killed is probably much worse. Yes my heart goes out to her and all of those who suffered from our wars.
For some reason as I was driving home I held her close and prayed for her. I would think that many who come back home from any war can feel isolated and alone. I hope that she has loved ones to help her on her journey of healing, both physically and spiritually. As much as I hate war, I suppose it will always be with us. I know of my own warlike and violent nature, as well as that part of me that wants to be loving, kind and present to all. This inner conflict, which I believe that most of us experience, is lived out for us on our TV sets and on the internet every day. Not only in war, but also on sites were people of different beliefs tear into each other, showing contempt and anger and a condensing attitude. Yes, I have done it to my shame and regret and will probably do it again, for in any inner conflict there are times when both sides are in ascendance, first this one and now that.
The real battle is within and our world will not change until that inner conflict within billions of humans ends. Will it ever? Perhaps by grace only will it end one day? Until then I pray to become more loving, and when I feel hateful and angry, wanting revenge, all I can do is pray for healing and understanding of others. It does work; from my own experience I can say this. Though it is slow going, because of my ever present inner conflict I will often fight against the very thing I pray for, though at a level so deep that I don’t see it. This aspect of my self is seen only by God and can be healed only by grace, a gift.