I am one of 2.2 million black veterans as of 2014, per the information on www.census.gov. In my ten years of service, (February 2002- February 2012) I’ve had the fortune of living, serving in, or otherwise visiting forty countries around the world on every continent except Antarctica. Now, I wish I could say that I served out of some sense of nationalism or patriotism. I wish that I could say that my service was a result of the greater good, or for some altruistic reason. I could say these things but, none of it would be true. The truth is that I joined for the same reason a lot of people, especially black people joined, and that was because it was a means to an end. I came from a poor to lower middle class family, and I wanted more for myself than being confined to the small town my family and I were marooned at when we were forced to relocate after the naval base in my hometown of Charleston, SC was closed.
At the age of 20, after 2 years of college, I enlisted in the US Air Force. So what do I have to show for my decade long service? A bad back, two surgically repaired knees, and three documented concussions, among other ailments. Currently, I’m 100% disabled. Actually, my official designation is temporarily 100 % disabled, which ironically is an indefinite designation. What that means is that I’m being paid like I’m 100% disabled, but my family receives no benefits. So my wife and two children aren’t provided with any benefits. Why is this this case? The answer is simple, my age. Because I’m thirty-five,( thirty when I originally separated) the government is hoping that I die rather than make me totally disabled because once they do it can’t be reversed and my monthly entitlement would increase. It’s ironic at best and infuriating at worst, that as someone who has given so much for his country I’m getting so little from it. The way our government treats veterans is deplorable. I spent the prime of my life bringing “freedom” to other people and improving their quality of life, yet my quality of seems to be of no consequence to the powers that be.
I spend my days making up for lost time with kids, taking them to and from their various appointments, activities, and the like. I’m trying to make amends for all the time I lost while being deployed or working twelve hour days and otherwise making the world a better place, or so I believed. I’m trying to make up for the missed birthdays, holidays, and just time that I wasn’t there in general. When I’m not doing that, I’m trying to reconnect with my wife. She has been with me every step of the way on this difficult journey from Airman to civilian, and from husband to father. S All the while I’m fighting with the government to afford me with a decent quality of life, after years of sending me to do the same for people I’ll never know. Meanwhile, I’m waiting months on end here at home just to get seen by a doctor for various appointments. For example, I finally was seen for an eye appointment that I’ve been trying to get since November. Here I am, after all I’ve done for my country, it seems as though it’s doing all it can to marginalize me and millions like me, America’s heroes aka the forgotten.