Working at the county hospital you don’t expect to meet veterans. Born and raised in Berkeley, I’m against war and afraid of guns. My father served briefly between wars but mostly uniforms, tanks, guns and soldiers frighten me. This county put my father in a camp during the World War II and I still haven’t forgiven us.
I never knew soldiers and I certainly didn’t expect to meet so many. I met John teaching swimming to disabled students in Berkeley. John, a former Marine had a huge brain tumor, the bad kind. He worked in construction when he started to have headaches and mood swings. His first doc thought, young healthy former Marine must be post-traumatic stress, PTSD. He got some mood meds. His balance got really bad and he looked drunk when he walked, he lost his job. He started living in his car and trying to get more pain meds, the headaches got unbearable. The police arrested John; they thought he was drunk but when he didn’t dry up the sent him to psychiatric hospital. The psych hospital sent him to the county hospital.
I never met a Marine before. John knew he wasn’t going to live and probably wouldn’t walk again. That’s why he wanted to smoke, laugh and be outside. He didn’t have any family and not many regrets; he was one of the strongest and kindest people I’ve ever met.
People don’t think of Highland Hospital as serving veterans but it does. I have worked with veterans from, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I and I’m sure we’ll be seeing veterans from Iraq soon. They are some of the medical center’s most gracious and likable clients.