A series of short testimonies by U.S. military veterans about their treatment at a Hot Springs, S.D., veterans facility.
Freelance writer Goulet gathered this collection primarily as a reaction to the U.S. government’s announced decision in December 2011 to close the veterans hospital in Hot Springs and pull the plug on its good works. The shutdown would require veterans to seek help hours away without reimbursement of travel expenses. Government officials have cited economic considerations and the hospital’s outdatedness, but these stories show these reasons as misguided at best. Each of the vignettes is brief—typically five pages or so—but harrowing. Goulet often lets the veterans speak for themselves about their war experiences and their profound aftereffects—mostly alcoholism or some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, including anger issues, insomnia, memory loss, fear of crowds or loud noises, impatience or irritability. The author fashions the veterans’ words into engaging narratives without overpolishing them, giving a rattling, unvarnished rawness to the material. There are more than two dozen stories here from World War II, Korea, the Balkans and one Middle Eastern fiasco after another, as well as additional brief comments from both vets and community members. The veterans, mostly men, tell stories about the distress they’ve lived with for years, and it’s clear that without a close sanctuary such as the Hot Springs facility—which is shown to have had a gentle hand, an easeful pace and a personal touch—many lives would be diminished. “We believe if we don’t stop these closures here and now, then veterans will have no choice but to relocate to urban centers where the focus will be on VA convenience and not on veteran care,” the author writes. Shut the Hot Springs hospital down? Readers may come away from this collection believing that the government should be cloning it in every state.
An infuriating, stinging rebuke to politicians who leave returning soldiers to their own devices.