“We were expecting trouble…” a shaky Staff Sergeant Bryan O’Malley shares his memory of the day in Afghanistan, where he lost four members of his team… “They turned the corner, and suddenly there was an explosion” O’Malley looks down, then away, whispering “it was hell on earth, that’s all I can say…”
He can’t talk about it, but he can tell us doctors at the VA Hospital in Los Angeles has found him to be perfectly healthy, even after telling them about the dark, horrible flashbacks, the sleepless nights, the crying fits. “I think about killing myself, and they give me a pill, where the first side effect is having suicidal thoughts? What, they want us to die quicker?” asks the tall, red haired young man. We have met up with him to ask for his reaction to the resignation of the Veteran’s Affairs Director in Washington.
O’Malley stepped back and clapped, literally, when asked.
He echoes the sentiments of many other veterans we talked to when saying that if a private neglected his or her duty, there would be consequences, why not for the people “at the top”, he asked, referring to the military’s top brass. At the same time, those people we talked to do recognize the problem with treatment of veterans of government facilities has existed for a long time.
One Vietnam vet, who did not want his face on camera, explained that his present doctor at the VA doesn’t know about Agent Orange, the toxic substance that was liberally used by the enemy during the Vietnam war. Whatever war they served in, they all say they have never waited less than a month for an appointment. O’Malley waited that much for a first appointment, and over the a year for the next one.
“If we actually saw combat, why don’t they make us a priority” many ask, complaining that the system is clogged with PTSD cases by military personnel who were never near gunfire. Another idea that has been discussed publically, is giving combat vets cards that can be accepted for treatment at any hospital, not just VA facilities.
Whatever happens, no real change will come without a real overhaul, they all agree.
Sad to think, they fought overseas to serve their country, only to find themselves fighting again, their own government, back at home.