Showing Respect
by James Glaser
April 30, 2012
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When you travel to any Veterans Hospital, you will see those who fought in every war we have had for the last 70 years. Standing in an appointment line might have you behind an Iraqi vet who has been home less than a year or a WW II vet who came home in 1943.

This past Friday I was down in Gainesville, Florida at the VA Hospital. My appointment was for 6:00 AM at the urology clinic, and to get there you have to pass through the waiting room for the Lab. The lab is where you get your blood drawn for testing or you give a sample of your urine. Even at 5:45 am there were people waiting for the lab to open, which it does at 6:30. I heard one guy say he got there at 5:00 AM.

You want to get to what veterans refer to as "blood drawing" early for a few reasons. First off, if you have a morning appointment, and you want your blood-work results to get to your doctor before the appointment, you had better get there early. Also, I suppose some people have a hard time if they have a fasting lab, and they can't eat before it. Another good reason to get there early is that if you come later, you might have a long wait while 75 people get their number called before you.

Wouldn't you know it, urology told me to get over to the lab after I had been waiting around for a half hour. By that time there were about 40 veterans waiting for that lab check-in window to open up. So I sat there waiting like everyone else.

There is kind of an honor system so that when the check-in window opens the people who got there earliest get in the front of the line. Well, Friday morning, just before that window opened, this extremely old veteran, who was tall and thin but still had great posture, walked so very carefully up to that window that I guess he was expecting to be open. He stood there a moment, and then realized he was early, and started to turn away just as the window was opening. As he started away, those younger guys who had been waiting patiently for well over an hour had him turn around, and they gave him first place.

I believe their doing that was a sign of respect for this old man who you could tell was doing everything he could to not depend on a walker or a wheelchair to get there. A WW II vet for sure, who still had it together enough to realize that he had stepped to the front of a line and was embarrassed and polite enough to want to wait his turn. Everyone there knew this guy had endured more than his share of line waiting at the VA, and it was a nice gesture to let him stay there in front.

The whole incident really wasn't all that special, but it surely was nice to see a bunch of guys showing a bit of respect for their elder who was in the same position they were.

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