“Dear Miss Stella,
You will perhaps be surprised to receive this little epistle without any intimation I should send it other than our former friendship, though not very extensive, yet of such duration it seems dearer through reminiscence.”
No, these are not the opening lines of a romance novel. These are the actual words penned by my Grandfather back in 1929 to my future Grandmother, who he would marry in 1931. He was in the Army and had just been released from the hospital after spending an entire year there for “indigestion”.
What kind of stomach problem causes you to be hospitalized for a year you wonder? No, it wasn’t a bullet to the gut. It was a common problem during WWI called “Military Dyspepsia”. During war, humans undergo incredible stress which can cause physical symptoms unrelated to actual wounds.
Every generation of soldiers calls it something different. During the Civil War it was called “Soldier’s Heart” and during WWII it was called “Battle Fatigue”. The Persian Gulf War had “Gulf War Syndrome”. Now we simply call it “PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”.
While the medical profession and the general public have always recognized these as legitimate war time injuries, our leaders and politicians have not always been so kind. During World War II, General Patton twice actually hit men in hospitals who were suffering from “Shell Shock”, calling them cowards. Here are links about these two men – Charles Kuhl and Paul Bennet.
After the Vietnam War, veterans were diagnosed with “SRS or Stress Response Syndrome” Shamefully, however, the VA declared that if the problem lasted more than six months after the soldiers returned home, then it obviously was a pre-existing condition and had nothing to do with their wartime service! And because of that, the medical condition was no longer covered after that time period had passed!
So, essentially they were told, “You have six months to get over it and get on with your life. Stop being a fraidy-cat!”
I don’t think my Grandfather was a weakling. He lived on a farm and was the oldest of six children – 7 years older than his nearest sibling and 16 years older than the youngest. He had to help support his family, which is one reason why he was 35 years old when he married my Grandmother! He was gentle and shy, but also witty, well-read, played the violin -and later raised six children of his own. He was strong! He survived. He was able to live a full, happy life because he was given time to heal.
“If I could see you, I have something to tell you. Also, a question if circumstances render it applicable. Honest Stella, I am in earnest. I feel you will give this your consideration in good faith. As you know, there are parts in life’s dramas which are difficult to explain. Yet, it is beautiful to live.”
This Friday, November 11, 2016 we will once again celebrate the service of all U.S. military veterans. Politicians will loudly say “Thank you for your service” to veterans as they do annually when the TV cameras are rolling. Do their actions match their words, though?
Please pay attention to these facts and hold politicians accountable:
- Bruce Braley, a Democratic Representative of Iowa submitted the Veteran’s Jobs Corps Act back in 2012 to help provide employment to veterans through public works projects in their own communities. Senate Republicans blocked the bill. Why? Republican leader Mitch McConnell said, “We Republicans remain resolute in our commitment to deny the Democrats anything that looks like an accomplishment in an election year.”
- Proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders in 2014, the Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act sought to expand education and healthcare for veterans, but Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans attached an amendment to the bill to levy sanctions on Iran. When Democrats argued over the proposed amendment, 41 of 45 Senate Republicans voted against the bill and it was defeated.
- The House Appropriations Subcommittee met with former VA Secretary Bob McDonald in 2015 to remove 1.4 billion in veteran services from President Obama’s proposed 2016 budget. Included in those cuts was money for VA medical care.
- The SNAP Program which helps provide food to families has been attacked by politicians. They would have you believe that recipients are freeloaders who don’t want to work, but – in fact – most people do have jobs and 1.7 million of those are veterans!
If you really want to support our military, then support funding for the programs that serve them.
“We are all more or less idealists. I would like to hear from you-my ideal. With best wishes please remember–Your Admirer, E. C. Russell”
There is hope in my Grandfather’s closing above, to know that if he remained an idealist, then I can too.