James J. Peters VA Medical Center
Reflections on Pride
I recently had the occasion to visit Washington, DC, as part of my VA duties. Specifically, I was there in my role as a Graduate Healthcare Administration Training Program board member on a training assignment for trainees in the program. Some of the trainees I knew and some of them I was meeting for the first time. Many of the trainees were Veterans who had served their country with pride and were now seeking to continue their service as civilians in the federal workforce.
On our third day in DC, we traveled to VA headquarters office, where Lincoln's quote is emblazoned into the granite block outside the main entrance. As you probably know, it reads: "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan." These words speak to me in so many ways, but primarily because it is the cornerstone of our VA mission. As luck would have it, it set the tone for my whole week.
The next day, we took the trainees to Capitol Hill to meet with our VA staff there. The complexity of our system of government was beginning to become more evident. As part of the visit, we were led on a guided tour of the Capitol Building. It was then, as the tour guide described some of the actions that had taken place there and across the country, that I began to re-connect the points in time in our history. I even came to better understand my place along that line as a senior manager in the service of my country. The history of the United States is rich in patriotism and courage. The courage of the founding fathers to separate from England, and the courage of the colonists to fight for their freedom, became the foundation for generations of Americans for years to come. Brave Americans, filled with pride for their country, have always stepped up to serve our interests in so many ways. We enjoy the freedoms that our forbearers secured on our behalf, and we continue the fight so that we can free others from tyranny and oppression. I left the Capitol with a heightened sense of patriotism and it invigorated me.
Upon returning home, I watched the new movie, "American Sniper," about Chris Kyle, a true American Hero. What affected me deeply was seeing how Chris was when he returned home. He was detached, withdrawn and seemingly lost. At one point in the movie, he meets a soldier in an auto repair shop and the soldier called him a hero. He was clearly uncomfortable with the concept. What struck me most was his interaction with his VA therapist. It started along the same lines. Kyle was detached and withdrawn and he claimed that he had no problems. Instead of taking him at his word, his therapist did something which I found incredible. When Chris said he was only doing his job of protecting his fellow soldiers, the therapist used that sense of responsibility to create therapy for Chris. He created a way for him to use that desire to protect others to heal himself. It was a wonderfully simple way to treat a patient and have that patient participate in helping others.
The events of the past week reawakened my pride in being an American. In particular, it reawakened my pride in working for VA with, and for, our veteran patients. The events that have rekindled these feelings are as separate and distinct as points on a map or months on a calendar, but they are inextricably connected in a very intimate way.
So why am I proud? I'm proud because I work for the government in the service of our Veterans in the greatest country in the world. We have our problems, yes, but we work to correct what we see and we move on. I toured the Capitol of our great nation and felt proud to be a part of our government workforce. Watching that movie after being in DC brought it all home and made me proud of being part of our healthcare system. To see what we did for Chris Kyle helping to return him to the man he was before the war made me proud. As someone who cares deeply for those who have served, I am proud to work for the American people. I am proud to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs doing the noblest of work for the most deserving of mankind. What I am most proud of is working with the many professionals of VA. It inspires me to see all of you work so tirelessly every day to improve the lives of our nation's Veterans and to fulfill Lincoln's promise inscribed on the wall at 810 Vermont Ave.
Yes, we "care for him" and "for her" and we do so in the service of those who served and that is something for which we can all be very proud.