The news this weekend was all about President-elect Obama selecting General Eric Shinseki to take over the Veterans Affairs Department. Since I interviewed Michigan Iraq Veteran Michelle Rudzitis for the story “Our Michelle” (Traverse, October 2008) I’ve tried to follow the veteran’s issue more closely, and I’ve also stayed in contact with Michelle. Neither veteran story—the national one or Michelle’s own—is a pretty tale.
One weekend Michelle flew to Fort Knox for a medical appointment. Before she left she told me traveling alone—given her prosthetic leg and her many other medical issues—is a nightmare. On that trip, the airline lost her luggage, which included her medication. Since she has to take narcotics to dull the pain she is in constantly, she started into withdrawals before her meds came. After Michelle had been laid up in her room for hours, sick and in withdrawal, it turned out the military had made a scheduling error with her appointment—she’d flown all the way to Tennessee for no reason.
Good luck General Shinseki. The work ahead of you is leviathan. Thank you for taking it.