Journal Entry: October 15th, 2011
I found myself in many awkward positions while tracing computer cable through the cramped hallways of the hospital. But this October morning began like most. The sun overcame the marine layer and was beginning to peak through the eastward windows of the fourth floor.
But cable is cable. And tracing the conduit throughout each room can be meticulous, especially where one begins and another ends. Is the cable colored? size, transmission capacity, potential age and potential damage. The installers performed a lousy job. Basically, they laid the cable, but did little to make it serviceable. Each floor, room, closet and entryway had a checklist. Each checklist must be compiled and recorded for clarity.
Room 407 was odd. There in the room, lay a fragile man, maybe 30’ish. Time, stress and pain wore him down. Standing in the doorway, stood Nurse Jena. “You a relative?” she inquired.
“No,” as I quickly turned.
“Too bad. We were trying to find a family member.”
“Why?” I inquired.
“Well, he’s homeless and probably will not last long.” Looking back at the man, “We know he’s a former Iraqi vet. But who exactly we aren’t sure. We also know he’s homeless. But getting information from the VA is difficult at best.”
“Basically he’s going to die alone?” I interrupted.
“Mind if I stay with him? I mean if that’s alright?”
Jena paused for a moment, “Sure.”
When I recall his frailty, I remember the words of Douglas MacArthur:
“Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up wrinkles the soul.”
Many people hate those words. For some reason, at this moment, that’s all I can simply think of. And I have no idea why. He deserved better words. He deserved someone to give a damn. Maybe, in the end, that’s all I could do. Maybe I would be the one who gave a damn. For this man, for all he had given, respect should have been mandatory.
This man passed later in the evening. I was there and he did not die alone.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, far too many veterans are homeless in America—between 130,000 and 200,000 on any given night—representing between one fourth and one-fifth of all homeless people. Three times that many veterans are struggling with excessive rent burdens and thus at increased risk of homelessness.
Further, there is concern about the future. Women veterans and those with disabilities including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are more likely to become homeless, and a higher percentage of veterans returning from the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have these characteristics.
On this Memorial Day, and every day hereafter, let’s all give a damn.