CONSIDER THIS: Veteran Affairs of the Heart

Managing Editor

Michael Rodriguez

Michael Rodriguez

Should a time come when we’ll be judged for how we treated our veterans, make no mistake that history will not be kind to this current generation.

Consider the federal audit that revealed the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in Harlingen produced the worst wait times of any other facility in the nation, specifically averaging delays of 145 days before veterans can even begin to receive specialist care. And yet not a single protest has made its way to the streets.

I speak not of an opportunity to riot and revolt but of peaceful assembly that can be noted for its aggression in demanding resolve as much as it can inspire contemplation and accountability. We’ve agreed that the Harlingen clinic’s dubious distinction will long serve as a source of shame and disgrace for an otherwise grateful citizenry, granted. But self-awareness can never be enough to make up for such a travesty.

If words could serve to rectify this problem, I suppose I would echo the fire and brimstone expressed by the multitude of enraged local, state and federal officials in response to the audit’s findings. I could then admit that I was not only saddened but deeply disturbed with the inexcusable mistreatment of our veterans, and I could further acknowledge that our community is often more outraged at Miley Cyrus’ latest antics than whether the soldiers who fought for our freedoms are receiving the care they need.

Truthfully, it also wouldn’t be unfair to concede that, by all accounts, we’ve become a people that have settled on a star-crossed fate to be “the worst” at everything: highest rate of obesity; lowest voter turnout; prevalent public corruption and scandal; and now becoming home to the worst wait times for veterans receiving specialist care.

Still, history won’t remember our words, our acknowledgements or our concessions; it’ll instead collect accounts of what went wrong, why it went wrong and who was at fault. Then we will be subjected to commentary of a supposed analytical nature, in which non-contextualized data designed to gauge our actions rather than our affinities will be the supporting factor in whatever judgment we’re rendered. Sympathies, after all, are not archived; and unfortunately, it would seem that much of what has been offered to veterans thus far has only been our sincerest apologies.

Can a mere apology ever suffice for a man or woman who risks everything on the battlefield in service to a country that treats them as second-rate citizens upon their return? The answer is a resounding no, because if we were truly sorry for the atrocities our patriots have experienced at the hands of their countrymen then we’d demonstrate that outrage in protests, in the voting booth and in correspondence to our government officials – where it’s historically proven that change can and will occur.

It’s not a foregone conclusion that Valley residents won’t rally for that in which they believe in, but what remains a constant source of humiliation is that we’re quicker to protest Chick-fil-A for the beliefs of a man whose influence is felt solely on a spicy chicken sandwich than we are in demanding better treatment of our veterans.

Yes, we have exhibited a propensity to give, to love and to redeem, but what good are these virtues if they’re selectively demonstrated and only at our convenience? True compassion comes without conditions, without prejudice and at a moment’s notice. That time is now. Actually, that time was yesterday.

If it should come to pass that the domestic injustices suffered by our brave troops motivated an entire generation of Valley citizens to demand better treatment from federal officials, then let it be yet another sacrifice veterans made for the betterment of our society.

As if they haven’t already given enough of themselves for our sake.


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