Thanks to everyone who liked the “Vets’ Fest” column from last week. I realize now that most veterans don’t want to wallow in self-pity or self-recrimination. Most veterans are just like most men and women in the broader society with some hang-ups and some strong points. Veterans may have a few more chances at traumatic memories, but most of those aren’t constant. Many veterans have sympathetic thoughts about their fellow servicemen and servicewomen. Most veterans have great empathy for those who came home with injuries (external and internal) from various combat situations (…and for those who didn’t come home at all). Most veterans want to help other vets deal with coming home, finding employment, making adjustments and negotiating various levels of red-tape. Most veterans unselfishly offer their advice and other assistance to comrades in arms.

Even though I am proudly a veteran of the United States Army (and later of the Alabama Air National Guard) I have to admit that the Marines of my acquaintance seem to have closer bonds than members of some of the other services. It is quite possible that every Marine strongly agrees that he/she has the backs of every other Marine. There, I’ve said it! Since I share a birthday (November 10) with the Marine Corps, I had to give them a well-deserved plug.

Talking about last week’s more upbeat column, there have been many recent situations that have given me a lot of positive thinking about the overall Veteran Situation. One of these is the new (DJT’s third) Veterans Affairs Secretary, Robert Wilkie. He will face multiple challenges as the VA has lacked a permanent leader since Dr. David Shulkin was fired (Dr. Ronnie Jackson never actually took over). Wilkie is not a physician, but a longtime governmental and military administrator which should give him added strength for the tough leadership role in the huge VA system.

Other bright spots (at least to me) are the number of veteran activities that are being led and sponsored by the various vet-groups. Many veterans now have added opportunities to be involved rather than “devolved” in their own health and happiness. Additionally, the spouses and care-givers of our veterans now have a greater stake and say in vet things in general. Also, many people are availing themselves of the Patient Advocates at the VA Hospital. Geneva Robinson, Stanley Spillers and the other Advocates are there to help veterans and their families navigate their ways through VA and other governmental wildernesses. The Advocates can tell you most of what you need to know, but they can’t help with resolving financial benefits and the like.

On a more North Jefferson County Note; the Thursday Vet’s Booth at the Gardendale Farmer’s Market at the G’dale Civic Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. is going very well. Not only are George Harding, Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Benny Reeves and I involved, but we have a new volunteer in a young combat-tried Marine, Jeremy Smith. Of course all others are cordially invited to come and help answer questions and meet other former service members (or some current military people). Of course the Gardendale Farmers Market is led by Dolly Parton’s first serious boyfriend, former male model – Jim Parola.

Thanks to Rev. Wayne Shelton of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church (which currently meets on Sundays at 10AM at the Gardendale Civic Center) I have a new humorous remark to pass along: “A lot of people would like to work for God, but only in an advisory capacity.”

Thanks to all of you and to Rachel Davis and Erik Harris of the North Jefferson News.

Yesterday was National Purple Heart Day. We want to honor all PH recipients, those with us and those who are not.

God Bless the United States, all our service people and veterans, and YOU!

– All the best,

-GI JOE

Gerald “Joe” Stahlkuppe is a combat Army veteran of the Vietnam War. An ordained clergyman, public speaker and author of several books, he lives with his wife in Gardendale. 

Questions or veterans issues you would like to see addressed in the column can be directed to Stahlkuppe at P.O. Box 849, Gardendale, AL 35071 or emailed to editor@njeffersonnews.com.

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