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Posts Tagged ‘PRSA International Conference’

Collage2Got in last night from a wonderful week in San Diego at the PRSA International Conference, feeling saturated with new information, new friends, reunions with old friends, and thoughts about my last conference as a sitting member of the board of directors.  I rotate off the board in December, and have to say that it’s been one of the best experiences I’ve had in my professional life.  Those who have given even a brief moment’s thought toward taking on a national leadership role in PRSA – do it.  You’ won’t regret it.

I’ll write more about the conference later, no doubt – but for now, my mind and heart are with our veterans.  Some of you know I’ve worked for the past nine years with active-duty service members and veterans concerning the mandatory, yet still experimental, anthrax vaccine.  The web site I run in support of that is http://www.mvrd.org – the Military Vaccine Resource Directory.  I’m behind on updating it as usual, but will be working on it today.  What I really want to say, which still astonishes and amazes me, is that those veterans whom I know personally, who have suffered incredibly from the effects of the anthrax vaccine – everything from grand mal seizures to loss of testosterone; from tumors and cysts to years of severe bone and joint pain; from continual migraine headaches to uncontrollable hemorrhaging and loss of the ability to bear children; from short-term memory loss to extreme weakness and fatigue – to a person, they say that if they could somehow be well once again, and if the military would stop demanding they take experimental bioterror vaccines and pills, they would still go back and serve our country.

For a moment there I paused at the end of that sentence, and thought “I don’t know that anything more needs to be said about the quality and devotion of our veterans.”

But something more does need saying.  These men and women, often medical-boarded out of the service with a too-low disability rating for what they have gone through, have had to wait up to two years and more to be seen by the VA.  In the meantime, they have to pay their own medical bills – if they can; if they don’t have to sell their cars in order to do so; if they don’t have to sell their homes in order to do so; if the can still somehow hold down a job, though many can’t; if their marriages can survive under the strain, though many don’t. 

When you see a veteran out on the street in your town, think about this.  He or she may not have been able to get proper medical care in time, and his or her once-familiar world fell apart, one piece at a time.  This is how we treat our veterans when they come home, when they become ill from a service-related action.  They’ve done their jobs; now they are disposable to us. 

Outrageous barely begins to cover it.  Don’t run around with a magnetic yellow ribbon on your car.  Run, don’t walk, to your nearest veterans center or VA hospital, and ask what is needed.  You’ll gain far more than you give.

Thanks, veterans; thanks volunteers.  I hear from the DoD that there are huge efforts at work to enable a 120-day handoff between the active-duty medical system and the VA; that is still too long, but is certainly better than the years veterans have to wait now.  We need – we need desperately – to deal with the consequences of war.

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