Coming home

Published Brownsville Herald 10/31/2011

As I sit here watching game six of the World Series, I am considering a new life back home. I understand that I have progressed well enough to be able to go home as early as next week.
I am so fortunate to have been allowed to enter the DeBakey Veterans Administration Hospital in Houston, and again I must thank Dr. Manoj Gogia of the VA clinic in Harlingen for taking a precious Saturday to call and get me an appointment there the following week. He is a uniquely caring and competent representative of the medical staff. Thanks again.
That idea, the prospect I have been praying for, leaves me with a number of concerns. Many I suppose other amputees, especially so many of my fellow veterans, have felt before me.
I am sensitized because the hospital that performed the lifesaving surgery is a veterans hospital. I lived and shared many concerns, hopes, fears and in some cases terrors I felt regarding the loss of one or more limbs.
Now, I will be returning to my family and the community I have made my home for many years. I have some other concerns and doubts about once again interacting with my family, friends and acquaintances. These I expect will go away with just a little time and experience. However, they could be life-shattering to a young serviceman returning from the fields of battle, full of doubt about how his sweetheart will feel about him or how his family and friends will; perhaps they treat him as cross to be borne!
Our returning hero, though, is most likely to have become accomplished with his new prostheses or trained extensively in how to return and live comfortably in his home circumstances.
I am fortunate in that I have been retired from my primary occupation for a number of years and many of my normal activities of today can still be accomplished, though others that require more travel will pose many issues that will be difficult to overcome.
Still, I, like my fellow returning vets, will wonder whether those who are trying so hard to help are just condescending because of the missing limbs they see. They might have the idea that he is something less than a man and they want to demonstrate superiority over him.
That might be far from reality, but sometimes the fears and selfdoubt can be amplified to the level of reasonable expectation.
Remember, the place our returning veteran is coming home from is a world of norms with rules and dangers vastly different than home and very difficult to understand unless you have been there and done that.
I have heard some tell me that having a friend, who has “been there” to talk to “about waking up with nightmares and then feeling that you are still there,” saved his sanity.
Others might need help, if they start abusing to alcohol or other substances trying to ease that hurt that just doesn’t go away.
That abuse can quickly turn our hero into a criminal with just a few convictions for substance abuse. Remember that only three convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol can result in a 10-year jail sentence. Also consider the result if our vet comes to see the policeman as the enemy and resist forcefully. It could be a catastrophe.
Over the next few months the last troops are scheduled to return from Iraq, and some may even feel they were failures if they perceive they didn’t have the confidence of our president and are being recalled just for a political show.
A little additional time with a “friend” who has been there and done that, like a Vietnam vet, might just be the right match.
As a last thought, let us consider the vast numbers of people from other countries that are not exactly friendly to the United States.
Further, let us consider who precisely are the actual rulers of Mexico. Does the elected, representative government actually rule that country? Could the masses of undocumented people entering the United States be considered an attack, not by violent means but political ones? Do not the drug czars wield enough political and actual power to be considered the real power and authority? Just for a moment suppose that the cartel in Mexico, having extended power into the Southwestern United States similar to the way they have in Mexico, and we determined to eradicate the cartels by force of arms and entered Mexico to accomplish this. We will have an even larger number of highly trained soldiers who might think they are failures for not completing their mission in Iraq. Might an adventurous administration send forces to the Southwest United States and advance on northern Mexico to loosen the cartels’ hold on the area? Who then would be the actual political and real power in Mexico? Though such an eventuality is not viable, could it happen? Are there circumstances in which that the Mexican people would encourage such an adventure?