Yesterday Shani and I had the chance to visit the Washington DC VA Hospital Center. I know, it is not located in Brookland, but our experience was so powerful and the hospital is so close to our neighborhood, that I thought it is important to share it with our community.
Just up Irving Street and across North Capitol St., the VA hospital is easily accessible by car, as well as a shuttle that picks up and drops off at the Brookland CUA Metro station. Upon arrival we found the driveway and the main entrance busy with outpatients and visitor traffic. We were greeted in the glass covered atrium lobby by our wonderful Brookland neighbor Diane, who is the Director of Patient-Centered Care .
Diane knows almost everybody at the hospital, staff as well as patients, and we had to stop many times for her to talk to many of them on our walk through the hallways. It quickly became clear to us that Diane cares deeply about the veterans, who have given the biggest sacrifice anyone can to our country – their health.
Continuing our tour through the facility, we learned about the many facets of rehabilitation and training, so many veterans have to go through, in order to make their way back into an independent lifestyle. It can take months, sometimes years, to re-learn how to walk and complete the most simple daily tasks, and the VA workers we met are dedicated to helping all through the process. Just hearing about what many of these men and women have to endure in order to regain the most basic skills, because of lost limbs, vision and mental capabilities, makes you feel very humble about your own health and well-being. It also instills a great deal of respect for the entire VA staff. With skill and patience, they conduct physical therapy, train amputees on how to drive a specially equipped car, teach injured veterans how to operate daily activities with one or more missing limbs, and offer temporary employment programs to offer a sense of a regular schedule and duties, in order to increase the chances for a successful reintegration into the workforce.
While we were there, it was also exciting to see that the VA has organized a team to assist the veterans with registering to vote and to casting their early ballot for the upcoming Presidential Election.
The VA Hospital offers a number of volunteer opportunities, but Diane told us that we could come anytime, without appointment, to visit veterans. Yesterday we saw first hand, that just a little time spend and a friendly conversation can make a big difference in a veteran’s life.
We didn’t have the pleasure to meet the most prominent resident at the VA Hospital, Mrs. Alyce Dixon. Mrs. Dixon enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1943, and was assigned after the war to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion when it was established in January 1945. The 6888th was the only unit of African-American women in the Women’s Army Corps to serve overseas during World War II. The 6888th was tasked with eliminating floor-to-ceiling stacks of undelivered mail and packages addressed to US service members, but stored in British warehouses. This September Mrs. Dixon celebrated her 105th birthday.
We certainly hope to be able to make the acquaintance of Mrs. Dixon at an upcoming special event on November 16 … Ladies Night. A wonderful volunteer opportunity that offers the female veterans an evening of fun activities and a welcome distraction of their daily routine. Hope to see you there …….