PVA From The Top – Be That Smile

Let’s brighten the spirits of those who don’t have family and friend support

By Charles Brown


My article started out being about the military, the holidays and December, but it ended up discussing what it’s like to be disabled and stuck in a facility where no one can visit you. Many times, war stops on Christmas Day, and soldiers across the lines can celebrate one day together. It’s amazing to me the many stories about the military and the holiday spirit.

For us veterans, it’s no different. We remember each other, socialize with each other and spend time with each other. If we don’t have any family near us, our military brothers and sisters are our extended family.

We watch out for each other, and we care for each other. However, I was reminded recently of some friends who have been stuck in nursing homes or hospitals. I don’t get to call them often, but I do try to check on them. In each of my articles, I’m always asking you to reach out to those who are less fortunate, those who are away from family, those who just cannot go places.

Conditions were bad before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but things have gotten absolutely worse since then — measurably worse. Only recently have some facilities started allowing patients to roam freely around the grounds or go to shopping centers. It’s amazing to me how some of these veterans or individuals with disabilities haven’t been able to spend time with family or friends.

They’ve literally been stuck away for two-plus years, depending on the facility or local community guidelines. I’m not going to argue for removing COVID- 19 guidelines. What I’m asking each of you to do is to put yourselves in these veterans’ shoes and reach out to those still isolated and lonely for company and those in hospitals.

Let’s all take a moment in our lives to reach out and offer our friendship and support, to bring these fellow veterans into our families or to be a friend they need. They’re not castaways and shouldn’t be forgotten. Let’s brighten the spirits of those who don’t have that family and friend support. Be that bridge, that smile, that hug, that handshake, that phone call.

This is personal to me. A friend of mine lives in a nursing home and, for years, was able to visit his family over the holidays and spend short times with them. But since COVID-19, he hasn’t been able to leave his room, much less the facility.

His communication with everybody has been through his computer or with the nurses who visit him daily to help with his needs. For a long time, he wasn’t allowed in the hallways, in the dayroom or even out to the local store to buy the snacks he dearly loves. In an effort to make sure everyone stays safe from COVID-19, he has been confined to his roughly 12-by-12 foot room.

Only recently has he been allowed to reach the outer hallways of his facility and go outside to enjoy some fresh air and sun. The unfortunate thing is COVID-19 is still out there, and so are other diseases and infections. I recently was able to visit my friend through a fence, but we couldn’t be any closer than 20 feet. We had to almost scream at each other to be heard over the outside noises.

But it was the first time I got to see my friend face-to-face in over two years, and we were both grateful. Now, he’s waiting to get permission to go see his family for Christmas. I wouldn’t be surprised if he decided to stay at the facility; his family can’t take care of him, as he’s a high-level quadriplegic. It’s unfortunate that he can’t be provided that level of care in his own home. My hope in writing this article is to shine a light on this issue and try to bring some relief to those stuck away in isolation in places they can’t escape for one reason or another.

To those of you feeling isolated and alone, your Paralyzed Veterans of America family is with you. Keep going, take it one hour or one day at a time. You matter. You’re important.

Please be blessed and safe over these holidays, and let someone know how he or she can reach out and lift you up.

Happy holidays to everyone, and remember, your kind words and gestures have the power of changing lives for the better.

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