The tradition of a New Year’s resolution does not stem from some party scene in Times Square. The tradition of making a meaningful resolution to usher in a new year is tied to an ancient place. It is a place I experienced as a troop.

The tradition of New Year’s resolutions comes from ancient Babylon. I lived out the individual and communal meanings of committed resolution while serving my country in the Iraq War. Now, back home, I am trying to make a special resolution as 2018 ends and 2019 is almost here.    

This year is ending and my New Year’s resolution is to be more aware of my health. How? Besides not deep-frying a duck at 0200 hours and actually ‘hittin’ the rack’ (going to bed) at a reasonable hour, I will explore the content of a pamphlet that was given to me at the Veterans Affairs hospital during my annual physical exam.

The pamphlet’s content seems captivating, for it reminds me of some of the literature I read during my days as a friar monk, prior to rejoining the military for the third time. Ironically, the pamphlet has positive New Age themes littered in infographic circles.

It is titled Whole Health Veteran Program! Great! Yoga classes, positive mindfulness, meditation, healthy eating patterns and so on are to be fed to the ‘hearts and minds’ of veterans seeking health care at the VA.

This is supposed to help veterans take charge of their health care needs. The Whole Health Veteran approach integrates spirituality and wellness in order to help veterans improve their health and live good, healthy lives.

With all of this awareness, then what? And are those promoting expansive mindfulness also pursuing self-care, mindfulness and compassion programs to help improve veteran care and service delivery?

Veterans are not military troops

The Whole Health Veteran program promotes veteran wellness with its systematic approach to providing wholistic health education. Other veterans and I are being told about diverse ways to manage our health.

I am open! Is the VA open to better ways of managing itself? With this in mind, I hope the VA will follow its own advice and look within. The VA institution needs to examine itself, just as the individual is being challenged to by the Whole Health Veteran program. 

Veterans are not troops taking orders; they have honourably served their country and are civilian patients while under VA care. Veterans are not subject to military command, as they were when receiving care during their military duty. 

The patient care dynamic is much more dialogical, for the needs of the military and mission are not a factor when receiving care as a veteran, instead of a troop still wearing a uniform. 

Many in our society view the VA as an extension of the military. There is a contingency in the VA of providing care to veterans with great rigidity. It is as if the clinicians and administrators are military superiors ordering veterans like troops.

This is wrong and unethical. Veterans who are patients, and even veterans who are employed by the VA are not subject to military regulations. Veterans are not under the military system and are not bound to the UCMJ (Uniformed Code of Military Justice). Instead, they have expansive civilian patient rights and responsibilities.

The bottom line: My present health care at the VA is not gauged by how fit I am to make a parachute jump, nor how able I am to receive medical treatments to keep me deploying to Iraq. 

The new psycho-spiritual wellness program promoted this year might consider promoting transformative ways for veterans and the VA (clinical and administrative staff) to critically self-examine intentionality, motivation, actions and perceived outcomes as the new year unfolds.

When I worked at the VA, I was made to robotically repeat the “I CARE” oath. Those who truly care act with great passion, compassion and effectiveness.

I honourably retired after more than 15 years of federal service, in and out of uniform. I never took a shortcut, and I always actualized the ‘finest moment’ during a critical event in order to cherish and preserve the life of a veteran. Now, I pursue the VA for health care.

A call for greater mutuality

Three people bumping fists at an office

I hope that as we enter the new year of 2019, we can experience the fruits of the Whole Health Veteran program. We have the largest budget for the Department of Veteran Affairs in American history: $200 billion dollars.

Veterans can freely voice their needs and concerns as civilians, as other Americans do in non-military hospitals.

Beyond the money, may we all try to truly communicate and care for veterans and VA care providers. This is the essence of true spirituality.

Fellow veterans, as you do your Tai Chi at the VA, with the new wholistic wellness program, I encourage you to utilize the hospital’s patient advocate if you are not being heard by your clinician after reporting adverse medical reactions to a particular medication.

Veterans can freely voice their needs and concerns as civilians, as other Americans do in non-military hospitals. So I will take that Yoga class to improve my mindfulness at the VA, but it’s also my desire for the VA to be more mindful about covering patient rights and responsibilities, periodically, throughout my care.

As said before, this is not a complaint. This is a call for greater mutuality as 2018 ends and veterans face a new year.

My resolution for 2019 is to further explore the Whole Health Veteran program to enhance my health, and I invite the VA to explore ways to understand itself more in order to better care for veterans.

I am willing to make my New Year’s resolution to improve my health. But can the VA also make a New Year’s resolution to be more aware of their role in compounding some of the negative health issues related to veterans?

I call for greater mutual responsibility, not blame, between the individual veteran and veteran institutions. Together, let us make constructive resolutions in 2019.   

Warriors, both veterans and civilians, thanks for reading my weekly articles about veteran spirituality and wellness. Blessings to you and those affiliated with The Mindful Word magazine. Continue to follow my weekly pieces and contact me. Offer me veteran topics to engage!  

It has been a great year for me, as the magazine has helped fulfill one of my dreams: To share the spiritual lives of veterans from my own experience and the experiences of others. Again, thanks for your continued support.

This article is part of a weekly column exploring spiritual transformation for veterans. To read the previous article in the series, visit STRATEGY OF BLESSINGS: Let us not retreat from giving this Christmas»

image 1 Pixabay 2 Pixabay 3 Pixabay