Every year at this time we’re reminded that Memorial Day is not just an excuse to have a picnic and eat barbecue. It’s a day of remembrance, a day to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives while serving in our country’s armed forces.
Five months later, we’re given similar reminders about the true purpose of Veterans Day.
We weren’t always so ignorant, forgetful, or blasé. Some of the older ones among us can remember when the focus of both days was where it should be: on the heroes, living and dead, who fought to preserve the freedoms Americans are so fortunate to enjoy as our (perpetually protected) birthright.
Since the irreverent days of the sixties, our men and women in uniform, past and present, have not always received the respect they deserve. Ironically, VA hospitals and medical centers have become emblematic of that disrespect.
What happened to James Wesley Hack two years ago at the Marion VA Medical Center is a case in point.
Hack visited that facility for major podiatric surgery on Feb. 2, 2016 and wound up praying for his own death during the hour-plus operation that he was forced to endure without the prescribed anesthesia.
According to the lawsuit Hack filed last October, the anesthetist failed to provide the anesthesia he was scheduled to receive during surgery, failed to set up properly and monitor the vaporizer needed for delivering the anesthesia, and failed to monitor the gas flow.
“[S]o for 76 minutes Mr. Hack, while completely lacking the capacity to communicate, experienced all of the stripping, cutting, filing, and cauterizing required to complete the surgery,” says his motion for summary judgment. “He will testify that he prayed for death so that the pain would stop.”
Hack’s lawsuit asks for $5 million in compensation for the agony he endured. We don’t know what the outcome will be but we do know that Hack and other veterans deserve better treatment and that something needs to be done about atrocious conditions at too many VA hospitals.