Vax4Vets – Norm Robison’s Story
Anyone in the military will tell you, the best way to stay safe in a dangerous world is to maintain a strong defense.
Unfortunately, many veterans don’t bring that creed home with them from the battlefield.
At Healing Hearts in Hope Veteran's Retreat Center, vets like me help others through the often challenging transition to civilian life.
We offer a free, open space where veterans can talk about their experiences, retreat from daily stresses, and learn how to take advantage of the Veterans Administration (VA) benefits they earned through their service.
After I returned home from the Vietnam War, I found myself in a different kind of retreat. I didn’t want to reach out for the help I needed and I didn’t trust the VA system to care for me.
For over 35 years I went without a support network, without a much needed shoulder operation, and without basic vaccines for common diseases.
I wasn’t alone. Veterans like me are less likely to seek vaccines, even more for the most common diseases like the flu, shingles, or hepatitis. In fact, one of the most common preventable diseases affecting vets is something called community-acquired pneumonia. A 2011 study said 35,000 veterans suffer from this family of diseases. Community-acquired pneumonia occurs when people have limited or no contact with a doctor or hospital – which sounds a lot like my old self and many other vets I know.
And it doesn’t get easier with age. That same 2011 study showed nearly two-thirds of VA patients over 65 had one or more chronic conditions like diabetes or HIV.
We owe it to veterans to make sure they get the care they deserve and protect them from illnesses, just like they protected us. It took me a long time to come to that conclusion myself and I am urging my fellow veterans not to make the mistake I did.
Thankfully, meeting with a fellow veteran at the grocery store changed my mind, and my life. Over the course of coffee and a meal, he convinced me to complete the VA forms that would connect me with the doctors, specialists, and treatment I needed.
Now I am paying it forward.
The United States entered WWII this month. While we reflect upon the sacrifices of those men and women, we must also remember those with us today that need our support. That includes treatment for physical and psychological wounds, as well as preventable disease.
I encourage all veterans to visit https://www.va.gov/ and get signed up. Get the benefits you’ve earned. Get the vaccines you need.
If you’re a veteran, or know a veteran who needs help, the VA and outreach communities like those at Healing Hearts are here to help.