In Flanders Fields

Poppy Fields

It’s hard to believe that in two years, it will have been a full century since the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when the armistice was signed, silencing finally the guns and ending the Great War. Almost a century ago, my paternal grandfather, a recent immigrant from what is now Poland, was sent back to Europe to fight in it. Unfortunately, the war’s end only planted the seeds for another worse one, and a little over two decades later, his only child, my father, at the age of eighteen, flew in a B-25 Mitchell bomber to Italy via Ascension Island to man a radio and waist gun in it.

No one who fought in the first one is any longer with us, and the ranks of those who fought in the second one are rapidly diminishing, as it too passes out of living memory. I didn’t serve, but if I had, I’d have wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force (my prescription for eyeglasses in the third grade put an end to that). But I remain grateful to all who have.

I hope that one of Trump’s highest priorities is to fix the VA system, the lack of addressing which is one of the many things for which Barack Obama would be ashamed, if he had any shame. And if you want to see how a single-payer government healthcare system would work, just ask a vet.

[Update a while later]

The Washington Examiner agrees with me on the latter point:

Now that the long, bitter 2016 election is over, Americans are free to stop thinking about the VA scandal as a partisan issue. It’s a new day, and partisans need not become defensive about the agency’s disgraceful treatment and broken promises.

Vets will now turn to President-elect Trump with their concerns. He won many of their votes because he was willing to shine a light on the problem, rather than dismiss it, as his opponent did, as “not widespread.”

“The VA is, really you could say is almost a corrupt enterprise,” Trump declared at one point. At another: “Our vets, our most cherished people, thousands of people are dying waiting on line to see a doctor.” His simple promise: “We are going to make it efficient and good.”

Let’s hope he does. Bold words will not be enough. We sincerely hope Trump follows through ruthlessly on this promise. If so, he will have done the nation a true and necessary service, and he will deserve the gratitude even of the tens of millions who voted against him.

We’ll see.

7 comments on this post.
  1. Michael McNeil:

    My father served on Ascension Island. My mother (still going strong at 103) was born the year before World War I began.

  2. Jon:

    My grandfather served in the army in WWI. My grandmother said he came back a changed man. It was an absurd war; American participation brought on by the foolishness of Woodrow Wilson’s idiotic schemes–and financed, by the way, with the newly formed Federal Reserve.

  3. Barbara Skolaut:

    World War I was the “war to end all wars.”

    How’s that worked out?

  4. Leland:

    As well as Obama ending wars.

  5. ken anthony:

    Can somebody explain to me why we have VA hospitals and not just hospitals? If we need special VA doctors, fine, let them work in a regular hospital. Vets should have benefits as a result of serving, but I see no reason for the added administration of separate hospitals.

    Let everyone complain about the services so they’d have to be listened to.

  6. Godzilla:

    I would say it’s a matter of the distribution of the kinds of illnesses people have. It’s probably different so it likely justifies a different distribution of space, assuming you are using a central location, like a hospital, to begin with.

    At one point it was probably mostly about treating injuries and doing amputations. Now its probably more about treating shellshock. In Vietnam it was probably also about tropical diseases.

    I doubt things like treating cancer or heart failure are their main priority. I don’t know how the VA system works specifically but I wouldn’t be surprised if they moved you to a different hospital in those cases.

  7. MCS:

    It exists by and for the employees of the VA.

    My last dealings with them were 20 years ago in May when my father passed away in the Amarillo VA. When he had a serious heart attack, four years previously, he was driven past 2 good hospitals with state of the art cardiac suits to a twin engine “air ambulance” for a flight to Dallas because the Amarillo hospital lacked the facilities for even such routine services as angiography. He barely survived and spent 5 weeks in the ICU before he was stable enough for surgery.

    20 years ago, the Dallas VA was old and small and grubby. I doubt that it is even in the top 20 hospitals in Dallas. There was probably some rational for a separate system after WWI; when most rural hospitals consisted of a couple of rooms in the house/office of the local doctor. Now, I can’t conceive of any condition that couldn’t be treated as well or better in the civilian system.

    The only thing that saves the system from itself is that many of the medical staff are in practice in the real world and police the worst conditions that these sorts of captive systems are prone to.

    Understand, I owe a debt of gratitude to many individuals in the VA that pushed the system and went considerably out of their way to help. I can’t help believing that most of the good that happened was either in spite of or beneath the notice of the “system”. I have little good to say about the civil service contingent outside of the medical staff.

    The best service we could give to wounded and disabled Veterans would be to eliminate the VA and allow the best, albeit most expensive, health care system in the world take care of them.