The Nation's Pulse

Eugene the Veteran

Health care for veterans should definitely be a right.

By 10.17.08

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About a week ago, I was on my nightly dog walk with my beloved Nixon. As Nixon was playing with one of the other dogs, I started talking to one of the fellow dog walkers whose name is Eugene. Eugene and I have spoken many times, and I have always considered it an honor to listen to him. Eugene is a Gulf War veteran with an amazing story, which he has shared with me. Eugene has had Gulf War syndrome and is a cancer survivor. He has been homeless, and thank God has been back on his feet for the better part of twelve years. He lives in an amazing condo and has an amazing fiancée, and one of the greatest dogs you will ever see. The part that really amazed me was that he never related his plight with any anger. He was at peace with his demons, as they were at peace with him. Which also explains why he always seems to be in such a good mood.
 
But last week Eugene was terribly disturbed. He had broken his hand a few days before playing with his dog, and was describing to me the way he was being treated by the VA. He told me that when they were on the phone with him they accused him of lying, and then made him wait for hours for treatment. He told me that he would love to go up to Northern California as he had done for his cancer treatment, but that he couldn't afford to do this. Eugene asked if maybe there was something that I could do to help. I told him I would do what I could.
 
I would try to write an article about this situation, so Eugene this is for you. It is also for all the Vets and heroes out there that have served our country and done her proud, only to come home and be forgotten. When the candidates were asked if health care was a right or a privilege, I, like many have always thought for adults it was a privilege. Children should never be without health care and it is their right. I put our troops in the same category. Anyone that is willing to put his or her life on the line for this country should surely have the right to health care.
 
I have one question and I asked Eugene about this. Why do we even have a VA or need one? Shouldn't every soldier be able to go into any medical facility in America, show his or her identification and be helped? If we do have a VA facility, let's turn the VA into the best mental and rehab facility it can be. The troops should get the best possible help for their medical conditions, bar none. Shouldn't Eugene be able to go to the Mayo Clinic for his cancer, or see Dr. James Andrews for his hand? If athletes see the best specialists, shouldn't Eugene?
 
I honestly don't even see the dilemma. I would much rather bail a troop out than AIG. If a Vet walks into a hospital where there are no seats, one should be brought to him, and he should have immediate access to a doctor. Hell, out here in Hollywood we do it for actors -- how dare we not do it for our troops? In Disneyland there is an express pass for the famous -- shouldn't our troops have the same express pass? In restaurants famous athletes rarely have to pay -- shouldn't our real heroes be treated to the same luxuries? There is even a celebrity line out here in Hollywood for the DMV. Are we not honoring the wrong people?
 
It is an honor and a privilege to walk dogs with Eugene every night. I have thanked him and want to thank him again for serving this great country of ours. We have to get our priorities in order. We have to get our heads straight, and the way to start is by giving kudos to those that have fought and put their lives on the line for our survival. So the next time you see a troop, stand up and thank him. Talk to him or her, and really listen. If you see a person in uniform standing in line to buy a coffee, and you have a few extra dollars on you, why not say this one is on me? It's the least I can do.
 
Charity starts at home. I know right now there are so many that are in need. So the next time you go to your big Hollywood dinner, and give your $25,000 donation to the cause, why not give $1,000 instead, and donate the other $24,000 to families that have lost there father or mother in the war, or have come home crippled. We have to again start treating our troops like the heroes they are. Otherwise, one day there might be no one that wants to defend us. Thank you, Eugene. I hope this helps.

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About the Author

Judah Friedman is a writer in Los Angeles.