I would like to begin this letter with the utmost respect and gratitude to all the veterans who served and protected our country, "America," from 1776, the present and into the future.
My family has an extensive military history. Starting with my grandfather who served in World War I in the Argonne Forest.
World War II - three uncles on my mother's side and one uncle on my father's side.
Two cousins died in the Bataan Death March.
Korean War - 3 uncles on my mother's side, and one on my father's side.
Vietnam - I had a cousin die in 1968.
My brother served from 1978 to 1981. My son served in the National Guard. All six of my brother-in-laws served their country.
Several cousins and friends too numerous to mention.
I served in the Army from 1972 to 1974. I believe the one that affected me most was not only a dear friend, but also my niece's husband. They have two children.
The family was notified that he died in Iraq on Thanksgiving Day.
I have utilized the Veterans Administration Hospital since 1975. There have been several excellent doctors. However, the VA can't seem to get them to stay.
I don't know if it's the location, climate, or financial retention.
Just to make it clear, the physicians assistants and nurse practitioners are extremely dedicated professionals. The nursing staff is exceptional in their care for the veterans.
Once again, I lost another excellent doctor who went to be with his family.
I have several dangerous health problems that have to be monitored closely, preferably by a medical doctor.
I realize that at times the veterans have to be transported to Milwaukee or Madison for extensive diagnostic problems that the Iron Mountain VA hospital can't handle.
I recently called the VA to try and request a doctor for an upcoming appointment. We have no preference because of the shortage of doctors.
I don't have bullet holes, bayonet scars, shrapnel, etc.
I made the choice in high school in 1971 to join the Army in which I served honorably for two years.
I seek medical attention at the VA because it is my choice and I am a veteran.
I was an employee at the VA for 30 years. So, just so you know I pay for my treatment and medication with my health insurance. Sadly, most enlisted men and NCO don't have insurance.
I don't deprive any veteran with a service connected medical condition of any medical treatment. They definitely are entitled for everything they have gone through.
In the 30 years of employment at the VA I never met any officers. The generals, colonels, captains and OCS graduates don't normally use a veterans hospital. They are educated men who can afford care at Rochester, Mayo Hospital, etc.
I myself am not looking for any handouts of any kind. I have medical insurance.
I'm looking for empathy for all of our veterans who have been turned away from the veterans hospital because they didn't register in time or refused to take the means test.
My goal is to have as many veterans join the American Legion, VFW, AMVets, Order of the Purple Hearts, and the list goes on.
I've been a member of the American Legion for 29 years and it's these organizations who speak out for all the veterans.
I recently applied for new car insurance. The company I talked to asked if I was an alumni because they get a discount. I asked if veterans get a discount. She said "no."
I guess I should have gone to college in 1972 rather than joining the Army. They sure are a lot smarter than the U.S. veterans.
Michael Red Johnson