Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Year's Eve at the VFW Hall

That was easy! I finally found the time to switch over to the new version of Blogger and everything appears to be okay (knock wood). I'm glad I waited till they perfected the beta version. I don't like being a crash test dummy!

Moving along, I know I'm late in sharing this, but I wanted to tell you where my hubby and I spent New Year's Eve - a VFW Hall. We usually celebrate at home, but this year we decided to do something different now that the kids are all on their own. It was an interesting night for several reasons.

First, the hall was the same one my dad belonged to years ago. (He was in the Navy and served in the Pacific Theatre.) It was bittersweet to see the pictures of some of the post-commanders we remembered from our childhood, and it was also unsettling to realize how long ago that was. My dad died more than 30 years ago and members of that post gave him a 21 gun salute at his funeral. I can still remember that like it was yesterday.

Besides the memories, it was also interesting because they had a live band. I'll take a good band over a DJ any night of the week - and this band was better than good, it was exceptional. They played everything from Patsy Cline to Janis Joplin to Stevie Ray Vaughan to the Temptations.

The group was very versatile, and the audience loved them because they took requests. Halfway through the evening, someone requested Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" song, which turned out to be a touching moment when people started standing up and raising their hands in tribute to our soldiers.

There was another poignant moment later on in the evening. Shortly after midnight, one of the lead singers yelled, "Let's bring our soldiers home in 2007," and the audience started clapping. He continued on by shouting, "And let's get Bush out of office," and people started stomping and cheering, although my husband said he heard one or two people booing.

The crowd was primarily made up of veterans, so I was somewhat surprised by their reaction, but my brother-in-law (Bob) shed some insight into this. Bob is an ex-Marine who did several tours in Vietnam and he spent a lot of time swapping stories with other veterans that night. He also found out that many of them now have children serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. One woman in particular talked to him for a long time about her son who came home from Iraq a few months ago. He's having a terrible time adjusting to civilian life - depression, anger, nightmares, paranoia - all the hallmarks of PTSD, and it's taking a toll on his marriage. His mother is angry with the military because they haven't provided him with any mental health services.

This is reminiscent of Vietnam according to my brother-in-law. He feels the military is quite efficient and spares no expense training people to kill, but they fail miserably when it comes to helping our soldiers transition back to civilian life. Considering that up to 30 percent of Iraq vets suffer from PTSD, something needs to be done to help these soldiers with serious mental health needs. Well, the military claims they've developed a plan according to an article in Mother Jones:
[...] the Pentagon is gearing up for dealing with them with a series of Flash movies for VA employees based on the first documented case of Iraq-related psych issues. The patient is Gilgamesh, who, as you'll recall, was the king of Uruk—the ancient land that would become modern-day Iraq. In the new version, Gilgamesh goes off to war, watches his buddy die, and comes home with an epic case of PTSD. It's a cheeky, cheesy take, but hopefully it means the Pentagon is starting to take the issue more seriously. It has a ways to go: It was reported earlier this year that 80 percent of vets with PTSD symptoms didn't get a follow-up. And some GIs who were diagnosed with the disorder were unceremoniously booted from the service.
A movie? That doesn't sound like the Pentagon is taking PTSD very seriously to me. Excuse me if I don't sound too impressed, but if they handle these mental health issues the same way they've handled the war in Iraq, our soldiers don't have a prayer.


Kvatch said...

It's a cheeky, cheesy take, but hopefully it means the Pentagon is starting to take the issue more seriously...

Is this Mother Jones' take or someone their quoting? God's teeth! They're not serious. This sounds like a bandaid, insulting, worse than ignoring the problem.

abi said...

Kathy, your post evoked some bittersweet memories for me, too.

I spent my first New Year's eve as a married man with my wife's family at a VFW. I remember dreading going - spending New Year's eve with my mother-in-law, at a VFW, how dull can you get? But it was a great and wild night.

It was over 30 years ago, but we still talk about that night sometimes. There was a belly dancer there (very different time back then) who pinched my ass as I walked past her to get some drinks. I'll never forget it - one of the highlights of my life. ;-)

Afterwards, I remember my brother-in-law giving me a "10-fingers" boost up to a movie theater marqee so I could steal one of the letters off of it. Don't ask me why. I still have that "S" on the wall of my garage.

Your post also reminded me of my father, who also served in the South Pacific in WWII. The last few Christmases my wife and have gone to Christmas concerts in the Americal Civic Center nearby, which once was a National Guard armory associated with my father's unit. It's eerie to be in this building, listening to music that of course brings back warm memories of my father at Christmas, while knowing that my father spent some time there before shipping out to a hell I can't even imagine.

I'm sorry to have rambled on. Thanks for the memories...

Glad you're back blogging, too.

Libby Spencer said...

I'm so glad you're back. One of my nicest New Year's Eve celebrations was the year I worked the shift at the VFW bar. I had the lounge side which was pretty quiet. Just the oldest guys who either didn't want to or couldn't afford to go to the big party in the hall. At midnight I kissed five old guys and it was clear they loved it. Probably been years since anyone kissed them on new years.

Thanks for reminding me.

Kathy said...

Kvatch, I agree, it IS an insult to our soldiers.

Abi, you didn't ramble. I enjoyed your reading your memories and anecdotes, especially the part about the belly dancer!

Libby, I bet those five guys enjoyed your midnight kiss. My dad never turned down a smooch from a pretty lady - much to my mother's chagrine! ;-)