I was driving home after my son had his speech appointment when we passed an SUV (Looked like possibly a range rover?) with a large plywood sign that had in very large red letters, “VA Malpractice ruined my lungs”.  There was other writing on it as well but as we were driving I couldn’t exactly read everything.  I happened to be right at my turn to go to the farm to feed the horses so I couldn’t follow this vehicle.

While I was feeding the horses I couldn’t stop thinking about that man and his sign.  We left and headed back on the highway toward home.  I had a screaming infant and my preschooler whining about chocolate milk, but I couldn’t stop thinking of my fellow veteran with his sign.  When we neared a gas station (I was almost on empty) I saw the vehicle coming out of a side street and going back the other direction on the highway.  As soon as I was able to so, I turned around and tried to catch up with him.  I drove all the way back to town with no sign of him so I turned around and headed towards home again… still low on gas and still with whining and screaming children.  After I got over a hill not far out of town I saw him again passing me the other direction!  He must be driving up and down the highway with his sign!  I hurried up (not too fast as I passed a speed trap on one of my trips).  I took a back road I thought I saw him take that leads back to the highway.  We followed the road and sat and waited for him to pass by one more time.  We never saw him again.  Eventually my gas light came on and my son got upset that we weren’t home yet.

I pulled out of the parking lot we had been staking out, headed to the gas station and filled up; my eyes transfixed on the highway throughout this time hoping to catch him driving by again.

I realized a few things.  One, how very sad and desperate one must feel to go to such lengths to let the world know that he served his country, and through a screw up at the VA (not so unheard of if I might mention) he now has an incurable lung issue.  Judging wholly off of the type of vehicle he was driving and how he was dressed (a teal Polo shirt), the elaborate sign and the nice trailer he was pulling behind the Range Rover, I would assume that he probably has tried to take this issue up through the VA through all the proper channels.  He has probably tried without success at getting them to admit they made a mistake, or possibly they are denying him care for the issue they had caused (again, not unheard of).  I imagine he feel pangs of betrayal and a heart broken with bitterness every time he thinks of what his country has left him… the type of care they have left him.  I can empathize because I know what it is like, though admittedly not on that level, to have the “system” fail you.  I understand what it’s like to want to stand your ground and scream, kick, shout, jump up and down and try to do whatever you can to make the point that you are not another case file.  You are not another number, or another name.  You are a person and decisions made on a whim, or ones made with no real knowledge can ruin lives.

I wanted to pull this man over so I could tell him that I CARE.  I would have shared with him any information I had that could possibly help him.  I wanted to hear his story.  I wanted so much to help him that I completely tuned out everything that was going on around me and my mission was to find him and help him.  This just reaffirms what I already believed; I need to be a social worker.  I need to work in a capacity where I am helping people.

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