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“Helping Those Who Help Veterans” By Donna McCartney Delivered 8/21/13 at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for a new Mental Health Learning Center

Over 200 years ago George Washington said after his election as President, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation." The VA plays a major role in the creation and burnishing of that perception, in assuring that veterans are honored and respected, not only with words, but with monetary benefits and access to the very best in medical care. My parents both were military officers. That experience defined their lives because, like so many in that generation, it lifted both of them out of abject poverty and gave them untold opportunities. My father died in a VA facility and both of my parents are interred in VA cemeteries. Thus I have had a lifelong connection to and love for the military and certainly have a fondness for veterans! Hopefully the knowledge imparted through the activities that will take place in this beautiful new Mental Health Learning Center will provide useful tools to help those who help veterans. It is humbling indeed to have my name affixed in a place of such privilege and trust. Thank you, Lisa, for your incredible act of generosity. As trite as it sounds, though, the credit belongs to the wonderful people with whom I was privileged to work throughout my two plus decades here at VAPA – including the inimitable and indefatigable Richard Mazze, who blazed a trail of change in delivery of care wrapped in actual caring. For me it really is all about the veterans. To highlight the debt we owe to those we are privileged to serve, the following excerpt from a poem written by a soldier in 1970 at the height of the Vietnam conflict – both in country and on our shores - is instructive:


“Helping Those Who Help Veterans” By Donna McCartney

It is the Soldier, not the minister Who has given us freedom of religion. It is the Soldier, not the reporter Who has given us freedom of the press. It is the Soldier, not the poet Who has given us freedom of speech. It is the Soldier, not the politician Who has given us the right to vote. It is the Soldier who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protester to burn the flag. Lest you think me naïve I do want to say that, of course, the soldier did and does have powerful backing from the US Constitution! The point I am emphasizing here is that the soldier who penned this poem and the Soldier he brings to life – like all the men and women who serve in our military and become our veterans – are and always have been the faces of freedom. We are specially entrusted to care for them in this place - either by helping those who help veterans – including through VAPA’s world-class research enterprise – or by direct provision of actual help, i.e., the delivery of care, to this nation’s honored men and women who have served our country. The VA’s transformation in delivery of health care – from being a place of last resort in the 1970s when I joined VA, to the place now decreed by NY journalist Phillip Longman – after a full year of investigation - to deliver THE BEST CARE ANYWHERE – is, to me, the embodiment of government at its finest. I treasure having been a small part of that system and commend the dedication of the thousands of employees at every level of service whose contributions make the operations run, creating that strong web of support for those who have served us. It has been my privilege and pleasure to see VAPA’s ascendancy to the premier health care facility in the VA’s constellation – and I salute the strong and dedicated leadership of Lisa and Larry and Stephen in bringing us to this prominence. Were he to visit VAPA today I have absolutely no doubt that George Washington would be pleased with both the treatment and appreciation we accord our veterans, traits - indeed ways

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“Helping Those Who Help Veterans” By Donna McCartney

of caring - woven inextricably into the fiber of this facility’s staff, each of whose primary daily task is to help veterans or help those who help veterans.

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"Helping Those Who Help Veterans"