When I was in Iraq, I wrote about many soldiers under the title of “Who Fights Our Wars?” Many people write and talk about VeteransAdministration employees as if they were not real people. I happen to know they are real people because one of the social workers the VA Hospital in Richmond, Va., is my oldest daughter, Lauren.
Some people fall into a career, some people plan for one career then go a completely different way. Lauren was on her career path before her eleventh birthday and has stayed on track ever since—with one course correction.
A month before Lauren turned eleven, we adopted our son Nigel.
Nigel at 5 with civilian Dad
He came to us at six weeks old from Bethany Christian Services in Pittsburgh through Pennsylvania’s StatewideAdoption Network. Lauren is Nigel’s oldest sister. Adopting Nigel led Lauren to decide to be an adoption social worker while she was in middle school. She stayed on that path through high school and college. She chose Juniata College because they offered the course she would need to go from a four-year degree into a one-year intensive master’s degree program. She also chose Juniata because she played goalkeeper for four years on their Women’s Soccer Team and in her senior year was the backup keeper for the Juniata Women’s Field Hockey team for three weeks and got an NCAA Championship Medal.
In 2007 when Lauren went to Juniata, I re-enlisted in the Army after almost a quarter century as a bearded civilian. I deployed to Iraq in 2009. Lauren got an internship at the VA Hospital in Altoona, Pa. , a year later. This is the course correction. The internship and my service led Lauren to switch from being a social worker for kids to a social worker for veterans.
After graduating from Juniata, Lauren went to VirginiaCommonwealth University in Richmond and got an internship at the Richmond VA Hospital. They hired her when she graduated in 2012 and she works there now.
About four months after she began work at the Richmond VA she took a job in mental health social work at the hospital. Now she deals with veterans who have profound difficulties and loves her work.
When someone tells you VA workers are just faceless bureaucrats, look at the face at the top of this page. She is a real person trying to help real veterans every day.