Heritage Holidays in Appalachia

Veterans Day – From The VA Hospital In Oteen

I’m not sure if it’s cause Pap was a Marine-or cause he is patriotic-but he taught my brothers and me to make a big deal out of Veterans. Without our Military Veterans-past and present-where would America be? Would we even be free?

Those of you who have been Blind Pig readers since the beginning know Veterans Day around the Blind Pig house usually revolves around school programs. While there is a program coming up-with Chitter and Chatter singing-this year my Veterans Day has taken on a note of clarity.

You see-I’ve spent the last 2 days at the VA Hospital with Pap. Whether you’re going for a doctor’s appointment in the outpatient area or visiting the hospital floors-going to a large VA Hospital is always a humbling experience.

By far the majority of patients at the Oteen VA are elderly men. There are some women sprinkled in-and some younger vets too-but mostly it’s old men. I’m always struck by their voices-some grown shaky with age-some so strong and vibrant it’s easy to visualize them in their soldier boy uniforms standing at attention. It’s funny how the different branches of service seek each other out-and eerie how they seem to know if their neighbor in the waiting room was a leather neck, ground pounder, or fly boy.

Over the years, due to Pap’s health, I’ve been at the VA in Oteen for extended periods of time-like the last 2 days. As I sit in the waiting rooms I listen to snatches of conversation-wives worrying if their husband will pull through-daughters and sons hoping their father improves cause Mother needs to go home and rest before she ends up in the hospital too. Long time buddies sitting nervously to the side-as I look at the worry written on their faces it always makes me wonder why the Vet doesn’t have family members to bring him-maybe he does-maybe he prefers the comfort of a friend who understands-maybe he’s outlived all his family.

Perhaps the camaraderie between the Vets is the most touching. One asking the other where they were stationed and what year they served. The answers always bring along talk of rations-of memorable Sergeants-of trips to distant lands. Often the good folks who work at the VA join in the conversation as many of them are Vets who are still serving-taking care of those they used to stand in the chow line beside.

After a visit to the VA there are always folks who stand out in my mind over the days and weeks that follow-this time there’ll be the gentleman who was being discharged at the same time Pap was last night-he was from Franklin-so we all joked about how we were going in the same direction once we left Asheville. There was the patient in the bed across the way who looked so frail and weak I’ll wonder how long he makes it-but know his wife and daughter will be there to comfort him no matter what. There’s the young tattooed janitor who entertained me and Pap with his out going personality and obvious gift for gab-who was in awe of Pap just because he was a Marine-he told us he’d never get over having his childhood dreams of wearing Marine dress blues crushed by type 2 diabetes.

One Vet stands out in my mind from a few years ago-he was a tall gangly old man. He could barely walk and his daughter helped him shuffle along with his walker. Once he got seated in the chair by Pap they began to compare stories of their service. The old man told Pap he was at Normandy-he told Pap all of his 4 siblings had served too-even his 2 sisters had been nurses. He told Pap they all came back-except both the sisters’ husbands. What gifts of service he and his family gave-but what sticks out in my mind till this day is the way he talked to Pap about it-he talked like it was just yesterday or last week-like he and his siblings were all still young-like they were just recently home after having marched off to war for the good of me.

The thoughts I’ve shared above-I experience them each time I take Pap to the VA-but during this visit as I looked and listened to the old Vets-my mind begin to think of the brave soldiers who are serving now.

I kept looking at the old Veterans and thinking they made it. They came back home-and the loved ones who hover around them in hopes that their pain will be lessened are evidence that most of them went on to have a good life. I guess what I’m trying to say is my wish for all those who are serving now-is that they come home-is that they live long lives surrounded by family and friends who love them-is that someday they become the old Vets at the VA talking about their past service with their comrades.

To all Veterans-past and present-I’d like to send my sincere thanks and appreciation!


p.s. Pap is feeling much better.

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  • Reply
    November 17, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    A lovely post, Tipper. Your sincerity is touching. My brother and brother in law were in WWII, and my husband was a veteran. We all honor them and thank them for their service.
    So glad Pap is better.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    I know just exactly how you feel, Tipper. I, too, listened to them talk when I was taking my Dad to the VA hospital here.
    And I second all your wishes and hopes for the ones now serving.
    P.S. I’m glad Pap is feeling better!!!

  • Reply
    Far Side of Fifty
    November 14, 2010 at 12:10 am

    I am glad that Pap is better. I always found the VA Hospitals so sad.. I sat with my Uncle until he died..he had no children..perhaps that is why I think of it as a sad lonely place.
    We should take better care of our Vewterans:)

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    November 13, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Thanks for the tribute. Our prayers are with the Blind Pig Family and Pap for a full recovery, soon.
    Rooney and Marloyn

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    November 12, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    What a wonderful post, Tipper, straight from your sweet and loving heart!

  • Reply
    November 12, 2010 at 11:52 am

    This is a wonderful blog. It really did touch my heart. My husband was a gunner,he stayed one year, and was among the first to go over their, he came home and cutting some tree out of the pasture and one fell on him, he didn’t even know what hit him. but he was proud to be and american,and I miss him so much i hope you can read this because I don’t have on glasses. But thanks again for this and I am so glad pap is feeling better. k

  • Reply
    November 12, 2010 at 9:00 am

    What a beautiful and poignant tribute to our Veterans, Tipper. I pray that they all know how truly grateful and thankful we are for them. Continued Blessings.

  • Reply
    November 12, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Tipper I am sending prayers Pap’s way for a speedy recovery. I also join you in saluting those who have served.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    My mother’s husband just had cataract surgery at the VA yesterday. He always comes home with stories of his adventures there. This time he asked the people pushing the gurney if they had learner’s permits because they kept running in to walls! The staff seems to have really good attitudes and love their jobs. Nice to hear Pap is doing better-give him a hug from me!

  • Reply
    November 11, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    What a beautiful post! Where do you get those words? Hope Pap gets better.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    November 11, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Thanks Tipper for another wonderful post….
    Many men and women have served and continue to do so…even in non-combat situations…there must be times they feel all alone in far-a-way places from home…
    I never was in the service but have relatives who were and in the Vietnam conflict and Korea…many times on home bases my husband was locked in at missle sites…so scary..and lonely..Thank you for your service all veterans!
    Thanks again Tipper and…I loved the music and hope that Pap continues to stay well…

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 11, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Glad Pap is doing okay! He sure was a handsome thing in his uniform.
    I fine Veterans Day very poignant also. I think about all our veterans past and present and I am grateful for all they have done for us. We are a smart people. I wonder why we cannot find a way to live without war.
    Tuesday when I sat at the VA with you it was the 20th anniversary of Forest’s death, in that same hospital. He was a Navy Pilot that loved his country and fought to protect it. The folks at the Oteen VA Hospital took good care of him all the years he was sick.
    Thanks to all our Veterans!
    Good post, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    November 11, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I’m so glad Pap is feeling better! I’ve only been to a VA hospital when I was younger. Hearing your descriptions really brings back memories

  • Reply
    November 11, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Tipper Thanks for the wonderful tribute to our brave men and women, in the past and the present. I Thank them for my freedom. Glad that Pap is feeling much better. And just Thank You Tipper for your so many wonderful blogs, some make me laugh and others I find I am wiping tears.

  • Reply
    John Huron
    November 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Hello Tipper, Your words are kind, true and appreciated by all vets as myself (USMC 1969-1971). I just returned from the local Applebee’s restaurant. They had advertised a free meal for vets today and you should have seen the place.There dozens and dozens of mostly old gentlemen sporting all manner of commemorative hats, vests and shirts declaring their respective branches and times of service. Because they were out of room I was seated with a vet I didn’t even know and we ate our burgers and carried on like we were old buddies. I guess by the end of the meal we were. As I was getting ready to leave, a young Marine walked by our table all decked out in his dress blues. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the guy standing next to my wife in our wedding pictures. Back in 1969 I really didn’t have a clue as to what the future held. All I knew is there was a job to be done and I signed up to do it. May the Lord of All richly bless all vets and their families for their immeasurable sacrifices.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Such a nice post for our Veterans.Glad your Pap is feeling better and pray he continues too.Always enjoy your posts.

  • Reply
    Uncle Dave
    November 11, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Tell Pap to get better, I’ll remember him in prayer. I too get to spend some time at the VA hospital in Lexington (seems to be more every year}. Thank God for the VA and their wonderful staff!
    I was a medic with the 43rd MASH in Uijombu, Korea. The worst and best 13 months of my life. I still don’t know how to tell anyone about it that hasn’t been there.
    Uncle Dave, Richmond, Kentucky

  • Reply
    November 11, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    From the very first time I started
    reading your blogs, I felt that you were a compassionate person.
    And a special “thank you” to the veterans who helped make our
    freedom possible and also to all
    the brave men and women of today’s
    forces. Glad your dad is getting
    better and it warms my heart to see the love shared by your family. Great post…Ken

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    November 11, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Speaking for the Veterans, we thank you for your kind words.
    Thanks to the Veterans of all the wars and especially to those men and women serving today.
    A grateful American.

  • Reply
    Betty Lance Pacher
    November 11, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Nov. 11th – “Armistace Day” What a memory I have of Oteen .[Two uncles were in the hosp. after W.W.1, one died there ] My father served in France with the 30th div. “Old Hickory” with fellow boys from N.C.and Tenn.. How he loved those Mountains [and passed that love on to me] Your visits refresh my spirit out here in Calif. You always bring back wonderful memories of “home”.Thanks Jo

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 11, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Tipper–You’ve left me with a catch in my throat and tears pulling at the corners of my eyes. Yours is a fine tribute to the countless heros who have, over the generations, given us the freedoms we enjoy. Your perceptive observations on a microcosm of our servicemen and servicewomen, as observed at Oteen, is wonderful.
    A cherished friend of mine, Frank Young, spent his final days there. He was a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, and clearly he experienced real trauma. Perhaps sharing his thoughts will provide you a bit of comfort. He once told me that he came back to his beloved Smokies to soothe his sould in their bosom and especially in mountain trout streams. For year after year, from his return until his health declined, he averaged more than 250 days a year fishing for at least an hour or two a day. A simple man of the high country soil, he was, like Pap and so many others, someone to admire and whom I’m proud to have had as a friend and a fishing mentor.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    November 11, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Tipper what a beautiful post, a beautiful tribute to the veterans. Good to hear your Pap is feeling better, will cont to pray for him.
    Patty H.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2010 at 11:23 am

    I am happy Pap is feeling better now. I read today on the internet that there are 24.9 million living veteras in the USA. that is a lot. there are not many of the older ones left from WWI and even the Korean War. I had no idea there were so many, and we honor them all today for our freedoms. My Uncle Jack was a flyboy tail gunner and Uncle Edwin was a very short tought Marine. Daddy and his other two brothers did not get called up because of vairous reasons. thanks for your story today.

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