We were coming out of Newport today and as we were getting on I-40 there was a fellow with a squared away pack and bedroll with his thumb stuck out. I traveled much the same way years back. I told my girlfriend to pull over and pick him up. Usually, I will just pass on by; this guy was 4.0 and had the 1000 yard stare. It is a look that only those of us whom have been over there understand. It is much like a business card is to a business man or perhaps a handshake is to a Mason.
Karl (the name we will use for him) was heading from Atlanta up to Lexington. He was a quiet guy with a bit of a limp in his left leg. Shrapnel is always a son of a bitch as the years go on. One thing which always is the mark of a good vet is that they use sir or ma’am. To break the ice, though, I told him I was enlisted and to stand down.
By in large, today’s combat vets are a different breed than when I pulled my hitch. I see a lot of them when I go over to the VA at Black Mountain, NC. Karl was no different; the Sand Box has really worn them down and society has shoveled a pile of shit on them. He had been waiting 19 months for his VA Benefits and bless the Obama Administration they just had not had time to fit Karl in. Not a racial thing; Karl is an African American. Seems the only color that matters to the Beltway or the Industry anymore is green.
I was pretty fucked up in the head when I came home. Panama wasn’t exactly an R&R spot. I had no family to return to as my dad and grandmother had passed while I was deployed. The civilians are always uncomfortable around you and it’s kind of hard to get a job when your only skill set is neutralization with high velocity rounds. At least, though, my Country was grateful for my service and had fast tracked me. Karl was exactly the opposite as is the case with tens of thousands of those fortunate to have made it back from America’s Longest War.
America has turned her back upon not only the valiant men and women whom answered the Call of Duty, but their families as well. Not to long ago, the United States was levying income tax refunds and EOS Pay when they were wounded and seemed to not be able to secure their weapon for the chopper ride out. With the latest spree — which all of us vets knew about but no one gave two fucking shits about — of vets dying because the white collar scum needed to lie on paperwork for bonuses is simply yet another line item on a long list of grievances veterans have. The reality is that America is war weary and simply does not want to deal with the fall out of having to take care of those whom ensured that the power stayed on and white collar criminals could continue to pilfer our Great Nation.
We stopped in and grabbed a bite to eat before Karl was pressing on. I asked if he would like to come out to the farm and rest up and get some laundry done, but I already knew the answer. I also knew that he would turn down the offer for a motel, as well. The conversation was light; the food was already weighing down on him. As we left, I pressed a few large bills into his hand out of sight from my girlfriend — never take what pride and dignity a man has by making it sport in front of others.
For those of you out and about today; for those of you whom are grilling and enjoying the family, why not stop by the VA and drop off a random card with a few bucks? Tell the staff to simply select someone. Why not stop by the Vet Center — they are in every major metro area — and hire a temporary worker there instead of an illegal alien? If you are fortunate enough to be hiring full time, why not stop by the State Employment Security Center (you may know them as Job Service or Unemployment) and ask to speak with a Vet Rep (Veteran’s Representative) and give a man or woman a chance to put a meal on their table and for their family as well.