When a person exits the Military, they have many options and roads to take. Some are well planned and like many of us, circumstances direct our path and dictate where we land. But no matter the direction a Veteran takes, there is one thing that is common; they help fellow Veterans along the way. And that is a great thing.
I spent the weekend with 20+ Veterans in the woods this weekend hunting deer. It provided a great time of reflection, assistance, healing and all around fellowship for everyone involved. We hunted with Veterans and were fed by Veterans. Veterans supplied the land we hunted on and rides, as needed. The entire community participated in the excitement. The community ranch owners and staff cared for those needing extra assistance and trained the less experienced in the fine art of not freezing in a deer stand. We “watched” as our host artistically prepared our trophies for our return trips home and we ate meals made with love. What I will remember most are the hugs we received as we were leaving. You know how when you leave your dad or sister knowing you will not see them for a long time? Yeah, it was just like that.
As we prepared to depart on Sunday morning, Veterans presented handmade knives to those with the biggest deer. A Veteran shared his love of knife making with us all as he gave detailed descriptions of how he chose the design of this particular one. He took days off work to have it ready in time and truly was endeavored to make it just perfect. It was just a knife when he passed it around the tables for all to see, but after hearing him share and feeling his passion; it became a treasure from another Veteran’s heart and hands.
Veterans and non-Veterans alike shared in the special time to just live and experience a small piece of each other’s passions and trials. Everyone related to each other. Even though our experiences are different, we share a common bond of knowing trials and tribulations, success and passion, love and pain. Together the strong repaired the broken and the broken weakened the hardened, if even just a bit.
We had those with loss of limb, loss of motor skills, TBI and PTSD. Our Veterans, male and female, came with service dogs, mobility assistance and caregivers to be greeted by “any small town, USA.” Famous people, local celebrities, Blue Star Moms, Church members and Ranch owners and kids, all enjoyed the fruits of freedom. We were all reminded of who we fought for and just why freedom is so important. But to make all that happen, it starts with healthcare providers and support staff and leaders to ensure quality living of all Veterans is possible.
The entire event was organized by a Veteran. A service-connected disabled Veteran who is seeking employment. Other Veterans in attendance serve Veterans in their communities through kayaking, mentoring and even encouragement. It reminded me how important we all are to each other. Nothing heals like giving and sharing. There is a time for giving and a time for receiving. We had entire communities sharing their passions and skills with each other, bridging gaps in understanding and erasing any civilian-military divide.
For many of these reasons, I love working at VA and I love being a Veteran. It pains me when I hear something negative, but it drives most staff to do even more to make a difference. I am constantly reminded of why Veterans, including myself, are able to still serve others and live a quality life. It is because my providers keep me going; physically, mentally and emotionally. I appreciate each one of my providers, and the staff that greets me when I check-in and out. Especially, those in the lab that tolerate me being a baby about needles and who have not hurt/missed even once.
When we deal with healing, pain, loss or fear we can forget the feelings of those across a table. When we deal with many problems each and every day, we can forget that each person and their needs are unique. But any time we come together as a community, as family and friends, it ends with joy and appreciation as we give and receive to/from one another.
To be a part of our family and to learn how you can give back as well as receive, visit http://vacareers.va.gov and apply today.