On the battle lines far from the front
The entrance to the Veteran's Hospital in Fayetteville is imposing. Clean streets wound around the enormous buildings that comprise the complex. A light breeze is blowing. Banners proclaiming "America is Number One Because of Our Veterans" move slightly. Empty flag poles stand as if at military attention.
There is a small, well kept sitting area just outside the rear entrance to admitting. Gardenias perfume the air. White and red caladiums decorate the quite place. There are a few people talking. Laughter momentarily fills the air.
The ambience of the hospital is similar in many ways to other hospitals. Always there is the eternal struggle of man against the crippling and incapacitating ravages of disease and injury. For many here, acts of courage and bravery are not relegated to past battlefields. Many veterans must maintain courage as they face medical uncertainties, loneliness, and other modern day dilemmas.
There are those for whom there is no hope for cure, save a medical miracle. There are those who survive because of a medical miracle. The struggle for life is waged day in and day out at the hospital.
There are many impressions, most fraught with emotionalism. But it is difficult not to respond emotionally to some of the scenes that are likely daily fare for the residents and employees.
There is the nurse who strains once more to understand the man who speaks in slurs and grunts.
A young Marine, smiles widely and in a voice infused with hope asks a veteran, "Do you have family here? How are you feeling sir." He will visit several veterans, most strangers to him.
The once strong and physically active man now in the wheelchair is a difficult reality. The sheer tenacity of these individuals is staggering. People in wheelchairs navigate and maintain their independence. They navigate sometimes with only one leg and an arm that is partially paralyzed.
In a room, ten veterans sit. Some stare vacantly into space. Some are now trapped in silence. An occasional sound, a low groan or grunt their communication. This scene a reality of aging, hospitals and a society that has yet to resolve many vital health issues.
Perhaps the a room of silence particular impacts anyone who works in the communication field. I am overwhelmed with a sense of ineptness and frustration. I can not say the right words, in this case there are no words that I can share to bridge the terrible silence. Other people will be impacted by other observations, depending on their interests and focus.
No one can visit the hospital without reflecting on the men and women who come for help and assistance. It is impossible not to be aware of the positive attitude that the hospital staff and volunteers maintain. Their unified message seems to be one of
"We can help, we can make a difference."
It is a far easier task to maintain buildings, propose fiscal restraint, enact legislation (all of these necessary and vital acts) than it is to mend a broken body or shattered mind. And it is far easier to visit a hospital and record observations, than to stay and try to heal those who come for help. There are many brave and courageous men and women at the Veteran's Hospital.