RECENT REVELATIONS of contaminated medical equipment in several VA hospitals remind me of the film “Born on the Fourth of July.” In this 1989 film, Tom Cruise played the lead, Ron Kovic, a Vietnam War veteran and author of the autobiography on which the film was based. (The two photos today are of the real Ron Kovic, a disabled Marine who still is an activist against war and in favor of better care for veterans.)
Kovic, who was born July 4, 1946, volunteered for the military, enlisted in the Marines and served in Vietnam. He was seriously wounded in battle and paralyzed from the mid-chest down. Kovic convalesced in a VA hospital in the Bronx—complete with rats, lack of adequate medical attention, and broken down equipment.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Now, it seems that as many as 10,000 veterans are at risk for possible exposure to contaminated medical equipment and infectious body fluids. (See the VA’s statistics about the issue here.)
The amazing fact is that this occurred over a period of five years in two locations. How could this have continued for so long without detection?
In 2005, Kovic wrote about the war in Iraq, comparing it to Vietnam:
“I have watched in horror the mirror image of another Vietnam unfolding… The paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded and maimed, shocked and stunned, brain damaged and psychologically stressed, now fill our veterans hospitals. Most of them were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx V.A. in 1968. The same lifesaving medical-evacuation procedures that kept me alive in Vietnam are bringing home a whole new generation of severely maimed from Iraq.”
What does our treatment of veterans, such as the recent incidence of contaminated medical equipment, tell us? What does it tell us about our values and how we live them?
Are you a veteran? What is your experience?
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