I am a veteran.
Military. American. U.S. Army. Medical Corps.
This is truth.
Along with being a fairly knowledgeable physician with over 30 years experience, it still seems incredible and unbelievable to at least some of my patients. It is not in their experience to know women who appear on the surface to be feminine and attractive who have been in the military. Admittedly, these things were never brought up until I lost a massive amount of weight (half my body weight) but there they are.
Every time I get a chance, I thank a veteran with a handshake for defending – in these very words — “this great nation.” This seems to be a custom that has crested, for I have not met anyone else who does this lately.
Even though I tell people I am a veteran, too, almost nobody thanks me back.
I have sat silent for a long time, waiting for the news to come in from Fort Hood, waiting for people to understand and explain. Now, I have read and seen enough that I think I understand.
As always, my own life and experiences have been so rich and so diverse that I have an overwhelming memory or vision.
It was a California state prison; I have worked in a few. Religion was always especially popular within the prisons where I worked. I assumed, as did the mental health personnel in general, that it was because inmates felt so dehumanized and downtrodden that they could be expected to grasp onto anything that made them feel good. We knew and understood this.
I certainly maintained friendly associations with all chaplains. I considered them a bit idealistic, a bit naive, but I also considered myself that way. And in that feeling, that belief, that “give them the extra mile” feeling, I got some peace.
Still, I remember the day I was scared. I rarely ventured into the areas of religious worship, but once, just once, I happened to be out crossing the yard during one of the five daily times of Muslim prayer. I could not count the number of inmates, as they covered the yard.