For Veteran’s Day I interviewed two friends who both work different branches of the Veteran’s Association.
Amy-Katherine lives in Honolulu with her husband, son and puppy while Nancyjean resides in Seattle.
Ladies, thank you so much for graciously sharing with my readers!
Can you please tell me what you do at the VA?
AMY-KATHERINE: I am currently a Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) . I provide assessments and training to Veterans who have experienced a vision loss and or now have total vision loss. Once conventional eye glasses cannot enable these Veteran’s to meet “normal” vision, it is my job to work with them to teach them how to maintain their independence in all areas of life, in spite of their vision loss. Those areas include, but are not exclusive to: reading/writing/communication, home and personal management, orientation and mobility/traveling, technology/computer/tablet usage. Additionally I provide counseling and support for adjusting to a vision loss and help guide my Veterans and their families through the grief and loss process to a level of acceptance and independence.
NANCYJEAN: Depends on who you ask–officially I’m a clinic clerk in the Mental Health Addictions Clinic, but I’ve been accused of reading minds, pulling rabbits out of empty hats and occasionally walking on water. One of the doctors has nicknamed me ‘Radar’ (as in Radar O’Reilly from MASH) and a co-worker refers to me as ‘Google” (as in, “Ask Google, she knows everything”) I see my job as to serve God by serving my fellow veterans.
How long have you been working for the V.A.?
AMY-KATHERINE: I initially did my graduate school internship at the Lebanon, PA Veterans Medical Center in 2004 and then began working there in 2006. Between Pennsylvania, and my current position with the Spark M Matsunaga VA Medical Center in Honolulu, I’ve been officially working with the Veterans Health Administration for almost 9 years.
NANCYJEAN: Since March of 2000.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO WORK FOR THE VA?
AMY-KATHERINE: I knew that the Lebanon VAMC had an excellent Vision Rehabilitation Program, and thus pushed to do my internship there. They are top notch!! So, when the opportunity came for me to join their team, I was thrilled. Our Veterans and their families have sacrificed so much for the American public… and in ways that we will never know! Some are obvious sacrifices, but many more are private and internal sacrifices. It is an honor to serve these Veterans and to help them get a piece of their lives back!!
NANCYJEAN: Honestly? I just happened to fall into the job–I was working as a temp and they ended up hiring me. Three departments later, I can’t see myself anywhere else.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
AMY-KATHERINE: My favorite part of my job is seeing the look of hope on a Veteran’s face when s/he finds immediate success using a device, as s/he realizes that all is not lost, that s/he can still “do” things they’d given up on. The first time they are able to see a picture of their grandchildren who live on the other side of the country is amazing! Often, both the Veterans, their families and I are brought to tears!
NANCYJEAN: The fact that I never know what ‘s going to happen from one day to the next–my co-workers and I maintain that our clinic lobby is probably one of the most entertaining places in town (did I ever mention the vet who got up and performed ‘Baby Got Back’ to try and take everyone’s attention off of a couple who were loudly arguing?) and our veterans are some of the best and most loyal guys you’d ever want to meet. most of them appreciate what we try to do for them–even the simple things like remembering their names or saying hello to them when I run into them downtown–that’s pretty humbling.
WHAT IS THE MOST EXCITING OR FUNNIEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED AT THE VA?
AMY-KATHERINE: As a big American history buff, especially of World War II, it was amazing and exciting to me to have spent time working with and serving a Veteran who served under General George Patton as part of the “Big Red 1”. He fought under Gen Patton during the invasion of Sicily, fought at the Battle of the Bulge as well as participated in D-Day!! The amount of history that these Veterans have seen and lived through amazes me, and I love it when they’d get to story-telling about their lives and their time in the service.
NANCYJEAN: As I’ve said, every day is an adventure. We’ve got the guy who gets up and dances and sings (both rather badly, but it’s hysterically funny) in the lobby, guys who ask completely inappropriate questions, and then there are the marriage proposals…
MONDAY WEIRD QOTD(quote of the day): “How long have you been pigeon-toed?”
QOTD (overheard in the clinic lobby) “I’d love to live in Medford, Oregon if they didn’t have a warrant out for my arrest”
QOTD: “you know, you’re the most competent sucker over there” (phone conversation)
When you answer the clinic phone and the first words you hear are, “I have this rash,” all you can hope to do is redirect the caller before they give you any more information that you really really don’t need–especially since you work in Mental Health.
QOTD: “They’re trying to have me declared incompetent and it’s making me crazy!”
DESCRIBE HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT VETERANS?
AMY-KATHERINE: I feel honored and privileged to be able to work with Veterans! I often “joke” about how I get to spend my time with them, providing them with training and equipment, free of charge to them, and that I also get a salary to do this!! I feel like the Tooth-Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus all wrapped up in one… and I get paid to do this on top of the joy it brings me. I find Veterans to be some of the most interesting people, with hearts of gold, and life stories that compare to little else! They deserve our respect, honor and thanks for what they and their families have done for us!
NANCYJEAN: Umm, I AM a veteran, so there’s a certain bond, but we’re all people like anyone else–good, bad, strong, needy, weak, obnoxious, etc, etc. What makes us different is that for whatever reason, we either chose or were drafted to serve our country and, as a result of that service, have had experiences that other Americans cannot identify with or understand, especially those who have served in combat. While I never was in a combat situation, I still had experiences and lived a life that most 18-25 year old women have no clue about.
WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT VETERANS?
AMY-KATHERINE: Veterans are generally wonderful people, who have chosen to dedicate parts of their lives and the lives of their families to the service of our Country. When they enlist (or were drafted) I don’t believe any truly knew what that decision would mean, for them or for their loved ones. They have sacrificed in hundreds of ways, seen and unseen, and as such, they deserve our honor, respect and thanks for making the choices they’ve made.
WHY IS VETERANS DAY IMPORTANT TO YOU?
AMY-KATHERINE: It is a day dedicated to the remembrance of Veterans, those still here with us, and those who have passed on. I believe it is so important to have remembrances for people who have done/made significant impacts on our world, lest their self-denial be forgotten. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause”, and Veterans Day is a day set aside that we might remember to give them the honor they have earned and deserved.
NANCYJEAN: Besides all the freebies and discounts offered to vets? :p LOL It’s a day to remember that there are Americans who, despite whatever faults or issues they have, have served this country in a way that is life changing, as one popular saying goes, “All gave some, but some gave all”.
Thank you ladies for sharing! And thank you so much for serving those who have served our country and fought for our freedom!