During the long hours of night watch on open ocean transit we used to play a game with our navigation system. Zooming into some obscure part of the world at a range of two nautical miles the player would try to guess the location as we zoomed further and further out. Lame as it was it passed the time. Sadly the game got old after about once. Luckily there’s now the Google Earth Geo Map Quiz. A Google Earth puzzle where you try to find and match obscure areal photos using a few almost passive geocaching like clues.
A fifteen minute call to VA informed my that I should have final word on my claim in three to five years after the initial year process of filing the claim.
Following the outgoing physical from the military I was told that I had a positive shift in hearing, which is to say that while still in the normal range, my hearing is considerably less than what it was at nineteen. Low normal I was told, borderline. The constant ringing I learn to ignore. Much like a new wedding ring that the finger is constantly noticing, overly aware once it is missing; silent rooms roar with a deafening chorus.
“You should file your claim downtown.” The VA representative told me as he handed me some forms to fill out after meeting with him to review my resume and job plan. I didn’t want to go through the process that somehow seemed like stealing from the veterans that really needed it, those who came home without arms and legs and those who’s PTST wasn’t silenced as soon as mine. “Listen” he told me.
“I was a Navy Diver and I noticed one day that my hearing was fading after I got out. It turns out that I had perforated my ear drums. VA will pay for your hearing aids later in life. You’re going to need them, and let me tell you they’re really expensive.”
Following my initial paperwork there was a meeting in the Federal Building downtown which later led to doctors appointments. The first of which I was unable to keep since starting a new job. Unfortunately the veterans administrations thinks that anyone can make a 1:30 appointment on Tuesday twenty miles away. In order to reschedule I was told I would just have to appeal. And so I did. Soon after I was able to attend the first appointment. A week later I returned for a second. “ The doctor read me a letter that he had gotten which said “This service member has served in support of the Global War on Terrorism please expedite as quickly as possible.” There were three following appointments with different specialists. In order to get hearing aids in the autumn of my life I had a full physical done complete with an EKG, stress test, x-rays of my chest, feet and back. Oddly enough it was the first time I had seen an actual Medical Doctor through out my military career.
The VA is usually pretty good about correspondence, often sending the same notice several times. Two and a half months went by of not hearing anything, so I called the 800 number. After the usual back and forth comparable to Sprint, Bank of America, or USAA I was finally told that I did have an open appeal despite their previous declarations that I didn’t.
“Why would I start the process over again if I can’t confirm if was ever confirmed or denied?” “Sir I’m showing that you don’t have any claims open.”
“Then why did the VA just pay me to see a barrage of doctors a few months ago?”
“One moment please.”
I should mention that the VA has the same hold music as sprint that queues up with that crackling drum beat.
“Ok sir I do show that you have an open appeal. And it shows that a letter has not been sent to you and that one should be, though I don’t know when.”
“Ok. Can you tell me how long I should expect this process to take.”
“Three to Five years sir.”
“Yes sir,” with a slight laugh of how ridiculous she knew they system was “I’m sorry.”
I’m just glad what I’m trying to get I won’t need for a few more decades. How can the guys with missing body parts sustain for three to five years in addition to the almost year long process of the initial claim?
Why someone would drive around filming Bath Maine from the passenger seat I don’t know. Further still to put that video up on You Tube seems somehow nearly status quo. I was fortunate enough to be stationed in Maine in ‘04. It was the place I fell in love with the outdoors again. Where I remembered how to fish, camp, canoe, kayak, and climb. This New England town was the perfect place for my twenty-three year old soul. I will take a piece coastal Maine with me through out my life and am grateful that someone would spend eight minutes and forty-nine seconds driving around for me.
Looking back on this year that I predictably cannot believe has flown by I reflect on my writings as a signpost of who I am and where I am headed in yet another major transitional period of my life. In the midst of this period following a second deployment and separation from military service I began my academics inspired by a fishing story nearly four years old. Maine has fairly liberal fishing laws. As I understood them when I was stationed there in aught four, no permit was required for fishing in coastal and tidal waters. That season we fished Striper along the mouth of the Kennebec, camping on the beaches every weekend we had off. In August of that year I overheard some of the the auxiliary crew and deck hands complaining how each of them had gotten tickets from a game warden for fishing without a license up state. Another received a citation for urinating in public, in the river no less. While they all laughed it off I wondered how hard it seemed you would have to work at getting cited for fishing without a license. You would need to forgo the immediate four hundred thirty-eight of miles of coastal waters, ignore the eight dollar temporary permit for the weekend at the tackle shop, then piss into public waters at a state park. I reviled in the repercussion of their arrogance. Shortly after, it occurred to me that that someone got paid to patrol the scenic beauty of those northern New England waters. It was their daily routine to protect and preserve that alluring land. I set out to achieve my Bachelor of Environmental Science in hopes of working in fishing and wildlife enforcement.
As I wane into my late twenties I consider my views of identity, community, and tradition. I feel grateful that my life experience to this point has allowed me to work with people from the world over, building strong teams and a better understanding of the culture of humanity. As Jon Stewart said in his commencement address to the 2004 class of The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg Virginia, “The unfortunate, yet truly exciting thing about your life is that there is no core curriculum. The entire place is an elective.”
I am so fucking bored.
I have a four-hour watch coming up in a half-hour.
There is nothing to do processing wise until Monday.
I get paid Friday.
They’re watching japanamation (non-English) in the day room.
I have no music.
At least I don’t have to be home for thanksgiving.
At least I’m not working any of the numerous jobs I have before.
This is my great escape.
It will be easier when I can liberate my wife and son from Detroit.
I miss you too.
I finally had our ticket out of the decaying suburbs of Detroit. My train left the Dearborn station at 4.50est. As it pulled away I left behind my wife, son, and best friend. I hope they do well without me. I know I’ll miss them all. The train rocked me to sleep just past Ann Arbor; perhaps it was the Tanqueray. I awoke somewhere in Indiana to the conductor explaining the train had stopped because the main computer was down at some central station. “It could be five minutes, it could be five days.” He went on to say, as the passengers futilely complained of their need to arrive on time. I suppose they wanted him to go out and pull the train or better yet who needs computers I’m sure that half a mile long freight train is sure to get out of the way. Needless to say we were rolling again within ten minutes.
I arrived at Chicago’s Union Station where an old friend of mine was waiting. He took me to a local pub where we enjoyed food drinks and our choice of tobacco. Mine being stale Captain Black Cavandish of some sort. We walked the streets until two am. We turned in, watching a video before four. That’s Chicago time, to me it was 5 am. I had been up now for some twenty-five hours. Almost too tired to sleep. The city sounds soothed me right down. Until a few hours later when my friend, in his sleep, yelled out the window “They’re all gone! And the powers out! We’re fine, we’re fine, fine.” Phrases like these went on for the next half-hour before I could fall back asleep. In the morning, or early afternoon if you will I caught the Metra to Great Lakes.
The wind blew cold off of Lake Michigan I struggled with my broken zipper, and walked in the direction I thought I might find the nearest food without checking in yet. I walked a mile in the opposite direction before I found anything. I had #7 combo, Gyro with fries and a drink. I finally checked into the base expecting the strictness of a post September 11th, quasi drill sergeant-esque manner. I never found it though. Nicer than any barracks I’ve ever slept in and worse than any one else I found my self in a corner room of the building overlooking… I’m not sure what I have yet to look out the window.
That was yesterday and today is Friday. I got my ID card and took a drug test. All else will be closed until after the weekend. I suppose I was lucky enough not to get my uniforms because I won’t have duty until Monday. If I didn’t know better I would say I haven’t joined the Navy, I just happened across some apartments where everyone is laid back and finds them self watching movies on big screen TVs in a day room directly adjacent to the gaming room. I have nothing to do all weekend. Luckily I bought a backgammon board at the NEX.