Glad to be home

Published Brownsville Herald 11/21/2011

You never realize how much you miss home until you aren’t there and the ‘stuff’ that you don’t realize you don’t have just isn’t there.
I am home now after having lived out of my laptop for three-plus months and my neglected home computer doesn’t have any of the new stuff.
The process of leaving reminded me of the things I like least about the government: the bureaucratic paperwork and red tape.
The discharge took some time and not every document was complete when we needed them, but finally all was finished and we were off to Hobby airport to catch a Southwest flight home. The security folks did their job thoroughly but did not overdo it either. The Southwest people were very courteous and got me to Brownsville in good shape.
Now I am home and I am anxious to go out and see what I have missed. I was anxious to get out and try out my new motorized wheelchair.
I soon discovered something was missing.
Sidewalks were missing! I can understand that in a small subdivision, but in a moderate-sized city it can be dangerous.
Even in front of schools and at nearby intersections there are no sidewalks, even though there are two schools near Price and Paredes Line roads, which are very busy. I also wonder why there is no police presence during lunch periods and at the beginning and end of school to slow down young drivers’ route away from schools to the nearby drive, eateries or the H-E-B.
I would like to see sidewalks from the corner of Price Road and Paredes Line out to the expressway and north to Ruben Torres Boulevard. I would then be able to get some groceries without calling the city transport that has a lift to load my wheelchair. I tried to use the sidewalks that were there, but found that every time I came to a driveway the sharp difference in the surface level made the sidewalks unusable. Perhaps a few usable sidewalks leading to the walking-jogging trail would make considerably more of Brownsville available.
A city this large should have safe thoroughfares to the main points in the community, especially where children walk to and from school.
Nov. 11 was Veterans Day and was more important to me than usual. I spent the last several months with vets from a variety of wars while I was in the Michael Debakey Veterans Hospital in Houston.
Many of the patients there might never leave because of their infirmities; many don’t have families or the facilities they need at home.
The Department of Veterans Affairs does its best to help with the facilities for the vet returning home from the hospital. In my case they provided just what I needed to make a home habitable for a double amputee.
If the community could become pedestrian-friendly with sidewalks, more of the vendors would become accessible. It would also provide a safer way to move around the community.
I remember a young man who was struck by a car when he tried to reach Valley Baptist Medical Center for wound care. He came through it with relatively minor damage, but his very expensive power wheelchair was a total loss. This might not have happened with adequate sidewalks.
As my memories jump to my service in the military and the public abuse that faced my fellow veterans returning from the Vietnam conflict (which did not reach the status of a war), I looked around for a group of vets who have experiences like mine. There was only one, and believe it or not it had the “honor” of carrying the name American Viet-Nam Veterans Chapter 1. I suspect there are other groups of ’Nam survivors, but in our newspaper it was the only one listed.
I have belonged to a variety of other very good veterans organizations but never seemed to quite fit in. It might just have been my interest in different issues and goals, but nevertheless I didn’t feel comfortable.
I wish Jesse Reyes well in providing a home and a group of people wit similar memories and needs for those of us who were lucky enough to return from ’Nam.
My Veterans Day was great as I slept in my own bed, in my own house and was able to share it with my family nearby.
While I benefited substantially from the medical treatment I received in Houston, and the guidance I received from the VA Clinic in Houston, it is a shame that the large veterans’ community in the Rio Grande Valley must travel hundreds of miles to a VA hospital. I believe the recovery would be quicker and more comfortable if the family could be nearby and share in it. I know that if my family were able to visit me every day, I would not have been as lonely so far from home, and I expect the transition back home would have been smoother.