Over the River and Through the Woods
By Karen St. John
“Tis the time of year for family get-togethers and such songs as Lydia Child’s, “Over the River and through the Woods;” or perhaps the reading of a beautiful and seasonally relevant poem as Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” But while you are passing through the woods or driving across a country bridge on your way to your relatives, stop and think for a minute who lives in those woods or down that country lane.
1.73 percent of the total U.S. population of veterans with service-related disabilities live in rural America, reports the Carsey Institute (www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu), an organization that conducts national and regional policy research on vulnerable children, youth, and families and on sustainable community development. The results are based upon the U.S. Census Bureau estimates from the 2008 American Community Survey released in September of 2009. A key fact of the report: In the Northeast, Midwest and West, disabled veterans compose the highest percent of the population in rural areas. In the South, 1.78 percent of adults are veterans with a service-related disability.
To understand the significance of these findings, think about what you like most about your treks down country lanes and paths, or forays in the woods. Surely it is the quiet, the soothing sense of being close to nature, with hardly another living soul around for miles.
Scrre-e-e-ech, HALT! That’s my point: “…hardly another living soul around for miles.”
Having solitude is fantastic for meditating, but if you are in physical pain and there is no one around to help you, that can be life threatening. This becomes more poignant with the reports from research entities, including the RAND Corporation (www.rand.org, a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis) that state high traumatic brain Injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) among our returning Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. And let us not forget the disturbing increase in depression and suicide among our returning heroes.
All our veterans deserve sound, effective and appropriate medical care. They also deserve a doctor and medical facilities close to them, not hours away.
This holiday season, as you drive through the woods to grandmother’s house, admire the snow-laden trees of a country woods, or dash through the small town, remember those who live there year around – our disabled veterans — and stand up for health care funding for rural communities. Drop your state’s politicians a note reminding them not to forget those who have so nobly sacrificed their health to serve our country. And, keep a watch on how they vote on health care issues for veterans (http://www.votesmart.org/).
For there cannot be peace on earth, if there is not first good will — and good health — for all.
Visit St. John’s literary works (nostalgia, political, poetry, veterans issues, et al): http://www.stjohnjournals.com
View information dedicated to veterans and military families: http://web.me.com/kstjohn11/Site/Veterans_Issues.html