War Veterans...

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    In my five years as a registered nurse I have met many interesting patients. Some occupy my memory because of their convoluted medical histories and diagnoses; some because of their positive demeaners through a difficult time; and others because of their past lives.

    During my time working in long term care, one of my lady patients who was very demanding and "by the rule" used to frustrate me to tears, until one day I noticed the pictures on the wall by her side of the room. In one of the photos, three beautiful young women in mililtary uniform stood posed with a man in uniform. The man looked familiar, but how could that be? So one night when my patient was lucid, I asked her about the framed picture.

    "Oh, that one is when the general visited us to encourage us during our time overseas." Turns out the "general" was General Patton! She talked little about the situation, but accepted my praise for her service during World War II.

    A few days later I brought pictures of my mother in her United States Marines Corps uniform during World War II, and a picture of me in my U.S. Army WAC uniform during the Vietnam War. As she gazed at the photos, particularly my mother's, she whispered, "You better not let people know you were in the service, they will think you were a "bad girl' and not like you."

    On Veteran's Day all veterans had miniature United States flags by their beds or somewhere in their rooms and I noted that "Maggie" was the only woman veteran.

    A few years later on a busy medical oncology floor I had a withdrawn, morose, elderly male patient who was receiving chemotherapy, but his prognosis was not positive. During my night shifts I would perform my assessments, IV checks every two hours, administer pain and nausea medications, and assist him when he had "an accident". He would be mostly nonverbal, answering only with one or two word sentences if the answer wasn't a nod of "yes" or "no".

    One night as I bent over to listen to his heart, his normally flat demeaner changed to a look of interest. "Whose dog tag is that around your neck?" he asked as I straightened up. "Do you have a husband or son in the service?"

    "Well, my husband was in the Navy and I have no sons in the service; this is my dog tag from when I was in the Army in the 70s". Now his eyes were wide open. Still, he was quiet while I continued my assessment. Once I started straightening his covers, he started to speak.

    He had been in the Army during World War II in Germany. It was so long ago and yet so hard to forget. He didn't have nightmares but he told me he would never forget his time "over there". I held his hand between mine and thanked him for his service...and said "Everyone has a story about their 'war', don't they?" His eyes blinked hard and he withdrew his hand. I told him I would be back in an hour to check his IV.

    When I left his room I worried that I had reawakened some bad memories for him. I hoped he would not be troubled the rest of the night.

    I got called to "Mr. H's" room before my IV check. "I need help, I messed myself", he said. "This is so humiliating, but I can't control it". As he and I resolved the matter I reassured him that the medications can wreck havoc on our bowels but once he is off the meds he will probably be able to control his bowel movements again, as he had been continent before his illness. As I turned to leave the room he motioned for me to come closer.

    I pulled the chair closer to his bed and listened to him sigh, as he told me the following:

    "It was so cold and damp. Our platoon was downsteam from the enemy camp. We were hungry and cold and exhausted. We were told to never drink the water from the stream without using our tablets. We had these tablets to put in the water so we wouldn't get sick drinking the water. The 'enemy' used the streams for their toilet, and we were downstream.

    "I ran out of tablets and I was so thirsty I couldn't help myself from drinking from the stream. When I started the diarrhea and vomiting I got so sick I couldn't move. A skinny lieutenent and my best buddy carried me to the first aid tent and I begged the lieutenent to let me die. I was so weak and sore from vomiting and the diarrhea. He looked at me and told me he would get me through this.

    "The lieutenent stayed with me all night, cleaning me and helping me with sips of broth and water. He stayed with me the second and third nights. I felt like I came back from the dead.

    "I was over there for months and months. I was shot at over and over. My feet were near rotten. I went through all that and what stopped me was that untreated water...and I wanted to die, I was so sick. But some skinny little lieutenent wouldn't let me.

    "And that is my story".

    "Thank you for telling me. I can see why this is particularly distressing. But we will get you through this", I told him as he closed his eyes again.

    A few days later I was on the floor to pick up my paycheck and Mr. H. is being escorted by a transporter towards the elevators. "Where are you headed, young man?" I asked him as I walked to his cart and patted his arm. His smile was a reward from heaven for me! "Oh, they have to check me out again", he replied. A few feet away stood my nurse manager, her eye brows raised in question.

    "Oh, hi, NM, this is my buddy, Mr. H. We were exchanging military experiences the other night and we bonded". Mr. H. looked at my nurse manager and added, "She is a great nurse, isn't she?" as he returned pats to my arm. I helped the transporter guide the cart into the elevator and told him to behave himself in xray, and I would see him in a couple of nights.

    And that is my story.
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    About psalm

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    Staff nurse; from US

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  3. by   Bugaloo
    Thank you for sharing. My grandfather served in the Navy during WW II, my dad served in the Marines during the Vietnam War. God bless those who have served our country and those who still are.
  4. by   mfdteacher
    I too am a VN vet. No one who was not there can describe the feelings and emotions that never fade. I thank you for your service and everyone like you. My first position out of school was at a VA facility. I thought I could give some back. But after being introduced to the "baby ward" and watching the absolutely horrible nursing, I got out of there. I spent every day totally ticked off and it wasn't a situation that I could live with. I was totally afraid that I would say or do something that would lose my liscense before I even got it. I am also a patient of that VA facility. I even took my wife with me to appointments just so she could see the crappy care offered to us. And apparently, nothing has changed in the past 30 years. We vets have to stick together and take care of each other. You can see by the number of replies, that no one really cares about us, except us. Thankfully, I have real insurance and don't have to depend on the VA, I hope you do too.
  5. by   Grace Oz
    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.
    Thank you also for your service.

    mfdteacher, I agree with you. My DH is a vet, and my son is currently serving. No-one but us really truly care enough to ensure our vets are cared for. Even then, we have to fight like mad people in order to obtain results.
    It's always the veteran community, and their loved ones, who campaign for what should be rightfully given without having to struggle and suffer.
    Thank you also, for your service.
  6. by   Hoss
    I am once and forever a young Sgt. of Marines (Vintage Vietnam) but now locked in the body of a Grandfather, Father and Husband of 3 student nurses (3rd yr BSN) AND a wife who took her children's challenge at 40 and is also a BSN candidate!! How many wonderful corpsmen and medics came out of the wars to continue their call to duty as full time nurses? And those nurses serving during those terrible times and in todays military are extraordinary people indeed. My children may choose the military as I encourage them to visit and learn about the Uniformed Services, and I know there are many many wonderful stories like yours to re-tell those who were not fortunate to serve and those of us who need to be reminded of our brothers and sisters in distress.
    I hope someone else in your God Loves You Service continues to post these great memories and even the humor that surrounds the destruction that war represents to the human body and psyche.

    Please, more such posts!!!

    And a very Happy New Year!!

  7. by   elanas
    Hi everyone,

    This is my first post and just want to say thank you to all those who have served our country and have sacrficed life and limb so that we may live here in the US in peace and freedom. Sounds corny but it's true!
    A little about me: I just finished my six years of active duty time in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman at Camp Pendleton Hospital, CA I am now very blessed to be going to an awesome BSN program in Loma Linda. I was fortunate to not have been deployed during my time of service. However, my hubbie just left about 10 days ago to Iraq, Camp Fallujah, he is a Corpsman as well. This is his fourth tour over there. I guess for those who are reading this I just want to say that I myself don't understand why we are there, although I have tried to. All I know and all I can understand is that war is about the man or woman beside you. It's about protecting, helping, and saving the man beside you. I ask my husband "why are we over there?" His reponse is that he just wants to be there for HIS men so that they can come back and that it is his job, to ensure they make it back alive in one piece. However a lot of young men, as young as 18, are coming home with amputaions, PTSD, traumatic brain injuries from IED's (bombs), etc.. we need to help heal them as a nurses on the other end the world..where the other end of our battel as a nation lies.
    Before you leave there bedsides next time please don't forget to say "I'm so proud of you and would like to thank you for your service to our country." "If it was not for you and your sacrifice for me, I would not be able to live my life the way I do now. God bless you."
    ok I guess I went on a tangent there. it's 0230 But the jist is there...Kat
  8. by   Hoss

    Well stated and very moving!! You and your husband will touch the lives and hearts of veterans throughout your careers for the rest of your lives. Please keep us updated on your path to nursing at Loma Linda (that is indeed a World Class Med. Center!). Our thoughts and prayers to your husband and you, as well as all of our fighting men and women throughout the world.

  9. by   mother/babyRN
    I come from a military family. Dad, brothers and husband. I am a military spouse and we live right next door to a base. I am going to share this with my family and everyone I know who wouldn't forget, some that might forget and all who should never forget how important and proud we should be of our veterans. I was particulary touched by your story and thank you for your service, both as a veteran AND a nurse.....
  10. by   MEME123

    for the past several years as i've been traveling around the country, i've been approaching soldiers in the airports and thanking them for serving for us. on several occasions i have noticed that it felt a little awkward for both of us. there are several reasons, some of which i am even just now learning as i produce this film and talk to more soldiers. but they have always appreciated being thanked, and i have always felt better having expressed my gratitude.

    i started to think that it would be nice if civilians had a gesture or sign that they could use to say "thank you" quickly and easily without even having to approach. i did some research and found the sign that we are now using.

    is this limited to the military? not at all. if you look around you i'm sure that you'll find lots of people who are serving their communities, from local to global. if you appreciate their service, give them a sign. say "thank you."

    i have another clip that i will try to post. my dad was wwii, navy and marines. all his brothers served too. dad had a love for this country, like no other. he would be the first one up on the block to make sure his flag was raised. parades, even though he was getting on and not in good health, was no excuse for him. he had to be there. it is sad that when i watched the giant's football team parade this year, i wish that that amount of people showed up for the veteran's parade. so maybe we can pass this video on to show our thanks to all of those who have served this great country and given us our freedom. i also agree the vet's must be entitled to the best medical care there is, no question about it. god bless you all. thank you.
    Last edit by sirI on Feb 28, '08
  11. by   psalm
    I make it a point to go up to those in uniform and thank them, as I show them my dog tag issued in 1971. I have been wearing my dog tag since 9-11, and wore it visibly as I got my ADN degree in 2002.

    My patients, esp. WWII vets, open up about their service years, and I tell them it was my parents (Dad-US Army & Mom-USMC) service stories that made me consider enlisting.

    I will try to check out the Graditude Campaign and thanks for posting!!
  12. by   MEME123
    Last edit by sirI on Feb 28, '08
  13. by   psalm
    Definately better than getting spit at...