Yesterday, I took the kids to the doctor for their school physicals. I wouldn't normally subject you to an account of the day-to-day minutia of my personal life, but given the current debate about how we should handle health care in the United States, the details might be of interest.
We arrived - without an appointment - at a medical facility that we had not been to before. We did not have medical records with us, and the only paperwork of any kind that we had brought were the forms that needed to be filled out to enroll the kids in sports programs. When we checked in, the only thing I had to do was hand the clerk a government-issued photo ID. I did not have to fill out any insurance forms, I did not have to hand over any payment of any kind, and I didn't touch a clipboard. Within two hours, both the children had been seen by a doctor, received physical exams, had their shot records checked and brought up to date where necessary, and I'd been given the completed school and sports forms.
That's not fiction, and it's not a prediction of what could happen in the future. That happened yesterday, it happened in the United States, and it happened in a health care system that's owned and operated by the Federal Government.
That's right. I got to use the dreaded socialized medicine yesterday, because I've got access to the Department of Defense's medical system.
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I just saw a shuttle launch! I haven't been this excited since Christmas Eve, 1985!
I would have mentioned I was going to the launch ahead of time here, but things happened kinda quick. Here's a condensed version of events:
As you might expect, there's extensive medical support at shuttle launches. One of the layers of support falls more or less into the "let's really, really, really hope we don't need these guys" category - medical personnel who support a rescue operation, if one is needed. Many of the doctors who work those standbys are military personnel, because the job description requires a bunch of stuff - flight certification, water survival training, that sort of thing - that aren't part of the average residency training program.
My wife is certified to provide that sort of shuttle medical support. Yesterday, she was asked to get down to KSC if at all possible today, because they were going to be short of people if the mission got bumped to tomorrow. She spent the rest of yesterday and part of this morning getting all the permissions in order, and at 8:30 this morning - CDT - we had the family in the car and on the way from Ft. Rucker to the space center. We rolled in to Space View Park in Titusville at about 4:45 this afternoon, EDT, and were in time to secure decent viewing spots along the Indian River for the 6:03 launch.
The launch went off on schedule, and definitely was one of those experiences - even at a distance of 10 miles - that can't be fully captured. You really do have to be there.
Some of the pictures I took of the launch are below the fold:
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I picked up my copy of this book when it came out last year. My wife read it - and loved it - immediately. It matched what she saw whenever she went to the CASH on her base in Afghanistan. I've picked up the book any number of times since then, but I could never quite bring myself to read it. I was absolutely positive that reading the book was going to hurt. I read the book today. It hurt as much as I thought it would. And now I feel forced to do something that's probably going to sound a little strange.
I don't quite know how I'm going to do this, but I'm going to try to convince you to go out, buy, and read a book that just left me feeling tired, drained, depressed, guilty, very angry, and just a little bit jealous. And no, nobody is paying me to do this, and yes, I'm totally serious. I hated the way this book made me feel, what it made me think, and the memories it brought back. But the book stirred up..... scratch that.
I was going to say that this book stirred up some strong emotions, but that's not what it did. It didn't stir up emotions. It ripped off a scab - and a scab that I really didn't know was there.
If the book wasn't as well done as this one is, it would have hurt a lot less.
In January, 2004, Heidi Squier Kraft was an active-duty Navy psychologist with two fifteen month children at home. In January, 2005, she was an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran on her way out of the Navy. Rule Number Two is about the things that happened in between. My wife is an active-duty Army flight surgeon with two children at home, and is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. She loved the book in large part because it was written by someone with experiences that were very similar to her own. And that's exactly why this book was so hard for me to read.
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Don't get me wrong. Living on base has some huge advantages for military families. The kids are around other kids who also move a lot. My wife can bike to work (on days when she doesn't walk). There are good recreational facilities available close to the house, both for us and the kids. On the whole, it's a good deal - especially for the price.
But there are also some disadvantages. There are a lot of training programs here, and quite a few of the classes get to do their physical training together, as a unit, under the gentle direction of their instructors. Early this morning, a couple of those instructors decided that it would be a good idea to not only run one through our housing area, but also to stop their unit for some remedial instruction in the art of running together and following orders.
My morning wake-up today came in the form of, "HALT MEANS STOP!! STOP MOVING NOW!!!" WE CAN DO THIS ALL DAY!!! FALL IN!!!
It's a little bit loud at the new Authority Family residence right now. The guys in the picture are practicing right overhead at the moment. The dog's in the bathtub, and the cat just did a backflip.
As always, feel free to click the thumbnail above for the full size version. That picture was taken at one of last week's practices. 1/500th of a second at f/8 using a 180mm lens.
It's been just over 5 years since the start of the Iraq war, and we've just passed another of those morbid little milestones that get so much attention in the press. This particular milestone has a nice round number on it - 4,000 - which apparently makes it somehow more important, or significant, or something than less neat numbers like 2526, or 3981, or 1135. The media's spent a little while circling over the battlefield, waiting for the 4,000th American corpse to hit the ground. The milestone arrived and passed more or less on schedule, and the media will settle back down and wait for the next round number. But these numbers, round or otherwise are nonsense. They're worse than meaningless. They allow us to care about this war on cue for some fraction of a news cycle. But by the time we've gone to the fridge, grabbed a beer, and slapped our fat asses back down on the sofa, things have moved on to the story of the drug-addled starlet's custody fight with her 5th ex-husband. In six or seven months, when the number's climbed to another round increment, the press will spare a few more minutes of air time and remind us to care again briefly. Between now and then, most of the deaths will be back below the fold on page A-39.
Somehow or another, I doubt that the parents of the 3683rd soldier to die are somehow injured less than the parents of the 4,000th. I doubt that the parents of the 4010th will feel any differently. And, of course, American soldiers aren't the only ones who have died in the course of this disaster. We don't know how many Iraqis have died. Every estimate that's been published so far has been the subject of some controversy, because the different estimates aren't in complete agreement with each other. After five years, the whole country is still so comprehensively screwed that it's not possible to safely conduct the censuses and surveys needed to come up with an answer that everyone can agree with. The survivors of the family that becomes the collateral damage from an American air strike don't mourn any less than the family of the American soldier killed by friendly fire.
Every single person who has died in this war leaves behind a hole. Their absence is felt by their families, by their friends, by their colleagues, no matter who they were or why they fought.
And those aren't the only holes that are left.
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