On May 10th, 1969 in less than ten seconds my father lost a chunk of his head including his right eye, his innocence, his best friend, and his soul while serving the U.S. military in Vietnam. His story is like many other Vietnam vets that survived hell only to be hounded by memories and pain for the rest of their lives. My father is a good man, but chronic pain from the war has left him crippled in many ways. This pain has trickled down to his family. As his daughter I have fond memories of him taking me to the zoo, teaching me how to fish, and cheering me on during hockey games. Under his smile he still held immense pain; the kind I will never understand or know.
I know he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when I was young. I never fully understood what that meant until I was an adult.
This condition has left him severely depressed. He has been on antidepressants since I was a young child. For as long as I can remember he has been on a cocktail of prescription drugs to live. Last week I received a call from him. He said the VA would not fill any prescriptions for him until he had an annual checkup at the VA hospital. Which sounds like a normal, but since it’s so hard to get an appointment at the VA he went to a different doctor. That doctor’s orders for his medication was over ridden by the VA. So, he called the VA. They let him know kindly the next appointment was in two months.
That was when he called me. We wrote long emails, letters, and had some choice words for the VA administrators and politicians in Minnesota. The worst part is my father worked in the VA system for over 30 years. He simply told me to repeat to everyone I talked to that, “twenty-two veterans commit suicide a day.” A fact that makes me cry. My father could be one of those twenty-two.
After a few days of frustration and scrambling my father’s prescriptions were refilled. In those days, I received calls of panic, and desperation, fear of depression and where it leads. The people running this country need to know what is happening. Because of poor medical treatment, long wait times, and prescription policies, our brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers are dying. I tell my father if he ever feels like hurting himself to call me, and he does. Medication helps him, and I pray every day he doesn’t become one of the twenty-two.