Last week I spent the morning taking my brother to his check-up at the Veterans Affairs facility in St. Cloud, Minnesota. First, he was scheduled to have blood work done at 7:30 am – so we left for his appointment before 6:30 am that morning. We arrived a little early so he decided to go to the appointment a little early; I decided to stay outside, sitting in my vehicle, with windows down and a warm summer breeze flowing through the car — and, of course, a cup of coffee in my hand.
There has been a lot of conversation about the poor treatment of veterans at such facilities. What I experienced, however, was much different. Of course, I wasn’t experiencing the inner workings of the facility – just observing the people at the facility. I saw employees walking to the facility, smiling, talking and greeting one another or those walking on the path, engaged in lively conversations. I didn’t see anyone who looked even remotely crabby. And, of course, there were many veterans arriving for services. They all greeted one another – occasionally stopping for a short conversation.
About 8:15 am, my brother returned to the car. HIs next appointment wasn’t until 9:00 am so we left for a quick breakfast at a local restaurant that serves everyday food. After a good breakfast with fast and friendly service, we headed back to the VA facility.
I again chose to sit in the car and work on identifying ideas for blog posts. It didn’t take long and the idea for this blog presented itself. I started watching workers who were cutting down a tree and grinding up the branches (I’m always fascinated by machinery.)
Within minutes, a red pickup backed up, next to my car, and a slim gentleman, with white hair held in a ponytail, jumped out. He approached the workers and minutes later they happily loaded two large pieces of the tree trunk into his truck and then went back to their business.
The man from the truck saw me watching and came over to my car. He explained that he carves bowls and other such items from wood and the wood that they loaded was black walnut – a premium wood for carving. He was very happy and excited to get the wood. We talked more and he told me he was a Viet Nam veteran who had been coming to this facility since 1990. Having observed the friendly environment, I asked him what he thought of the facility. He stated that the services at the facility, which in his early years there were quite unsatisfactory, have steadily improved. He explained that the workers now are enthusiastic and care about the veterans, something not always experienced in the past. He also commented that they are doing a much better job in caring for the physical environment – so it looks like they care about the place.
I was hoping I could buy some of the bowls he makes but I will have to wait. He said his health prevents him from working a lot of the time so I should check next summer. Then he realized he was a bit late for his appointment but he was sure they would understand when he explained he just had been talking to the Planning Director from the City of Anoka. Haha – I doubt they would be impressed with that, but, given the friendly atmosphere, I’m quite sure they forgave him for being late.
And, by the way, my brother is fine.