We Can’t Handle the Truth

May/28/2014 5:00AM
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Memorial Day for me has become a day of deep thought for me. My country turned me down for service. I flunked my physical due to a knee I torn up wrestling in college. That knee has since been replaced but every Memorial Day I feel some guilt for not serving my country.

This year I have thought a great deal about the veterans our government is failing in Veterans Hospitals across this country. I had occasion to sit with one a couple of years ago and hear his story. He served in Viet Nam, a place I might have been, and was exposed to Agent Orange. He developed Parkinson’s at an early age. The government recently put Parkinson’s on the list of illnesses one can receive disability benefits for if the veteran was exposed to the poison. This man was.

A 2013  report by the Congressional Research Service found it took an average of 1,094 days for the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to decide on a veteran’s claim. According to this man it was this long or longer. The man was an executive at a large fast food chain before he retired. He knew how to gather data and talk to bureaucrats. It didn’t help.

The days don’t describe the process. According to him he was exposed to the worst of the worst government employees. He went back and forth between Arizona in the winter and Illinois in the Summer so he was dealing with two veteran’s hospitals.  He would be told he needed this list of documents to complete his claim. He would gather the documents and set up a meeting with the appropriate individual at the local hospital to have the claim reviewed. Every time he waited up to an hour to see the person. Then the person, never the same person, would say: “who told you to bring this stuff?’. I don’t need any of this, I need this instead. They would refuse to make copies of what they could accept or give him written acknowledgement of what they said they needed.

He would go back and the process would be repeated. The VA was trying to get veterans to give up and stop filing.

It’s not just the time and incompetence the VA is exposing our veterans to, it’s the frustration and humiliation from non-caring VA employees who are not trained or criticized for poor treatment they render. They treat the vets like they treat you at the license bureau or the post office. You know the drill. Morbidly obese employees who can barely get off a chair dragging the huge carcasses over to yawn and tell you to go back to the end of the line. At the post office, six places and one filled with a bored employee. Like the bears at the zoo who never come out when you are there with the kids or grandkids, they disappear into those back doors and rarely make an appearance.

We have a president who could care less about this except for the political fallout. You have a senator and a congressman who is the same. You, too, care less because you never get the truth. It’s because we can’t handle the truth. Remember this,

Judge Randolph: *Consider yourself in Contempt!*

Kaffee: *Colonel Jessep, did you order the Code Red?*

Judge Randolph: You *don’t* have to answer that question!

Col. Jessep: I’ll answer the question!

[to Kaffee]

Col. Jessep: You want answers?

Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to.

Col. Jessep: *You want answers?*

Kaffee: *I want the truth!*

Col. Jessep: *You can’t handle the truth!*


Col. Jessep: Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?

Col. Jessep: I did the job I…

Kaffee: *Did you order the Code Red?*

Col. Jessep: *You’re Goddamn right I did!*

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