Last week was a crazy busy week for me. Not only was I working in DC/MD for YRF but I was also there for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. Being a part of both organizations and being able to pay our blessings forward is just indescribable. I had one of the busiest, yet amazing weeks last week and I just have to tell the tale of the two Congressmen I met.
Tuesday night I was invited to a dinner. Floating around me were some huge names that have a big effect on the Department of Defense. Also in attendance was a Congressman. I did not go out of my way to introduce myself, but once he heard my husband was wounded I had his undivided attention. He wanted to know all about our family. Then he asked me if I knew a few Marine and Army families that he had met. He knew them all by name as well as their family members. Then I learned he knew one of my favorite families, the McConnell family. His Chief of Staff joined in our conversation and we all shared some of our favorite moments we had had with that family. What a gift it was that we could all be brought together because we had a great family in common. That moment made my heart smile.
Then he told me a story about how Walter Reed wouldn't let him on post to see the wounded one time. His staff had been trying for days and finally he called himself. He told me how important it was to him to meet as many of our families as possible. Then when chatted about the VA and he felt our frustration and then assured me questions would be answered. You could tell how much he cared for our veterans and their families.
Not even 48 hours later I was on Capitol Hill. I went with another Dole Fellow and had two great meetings with the staff members of our two Tennessee Senators. Then I went and had two meetings Tennessee Representatives. The first one went really well, but the second meeting was not how I wanted to end my day.
Monday I noticed a Tennessee Representative boarding the same plane. He recognized me and we had that "how do I know you" moment. I informed him that he met Chaz and I back in 2011 and that Chaz had been wounded. He then asked what was I heading to DC for and I told him. He then told me to call his office and set up a meeting with him. I relayed that information to the Dole Foundation and they set it up.
When I got to his office for our meeting, he was not there. I was perfectly fine meeting with his staff. So I did. A few minutes into our conversation the Congressman appeared. He looked at me with a less than thrilled look and said "Are we going to do this?" His staffer jumped up and I sat for a second. The staffer asked me to join him. We went to the Congressman's office. I could tell the Congressman was in a foul mood, but I was not prepared for the hostile conversation that was going to take place.
I gave him the folder with information about the Dole Foundation and the bill Senator Murray was introducing. He picked up the folder and put it down and then asked me, "Do you actually understand how things get funded around here?" It was in such a hateful tone that I sat back in my chair and said, "No, please enlighten me." (He didn't like that.) I was given a cliff notes version on how a bill becomes a law, which School House Rock does a much better job of doing. He was so flippant and rude that I am still in shock that any person would speak to another like that.
Then he asked me why was all of this so important and I told him about caregivers like myself and what all we do. Then he says, "But how is your husband's care at the VA?" I told him fine because we go to the Murfreesboro VA, but the system of processing was a nightmare. He quickly told me that, "If you are fine with your VA care in Tennessee that is all I care about. I have 540,000 Tennesseans without health care because of medicare cuts that I need to focus on."
Then he asked where our kids go to school. I told him we home school. He had an appalled look on his face. He then informed me we have some of the best schools in the state of Tennessee. I asked him when was the last time he sent a child through our school system. He didn't answer that but told me that Nashville had two of the country's best high schools. I told him I am very aware of MLK and Hume Fogg and I am also aware of the lottery that you chooses if your kids attend that school. He didn't like that.
Then he said "If there's nothing else, I should move on with my day." I told him that was a great idea.
And I voted for him......It will NEVER happen again. I am pretty upset that I wasted my previous votes on that jerk. I understand that as a Congressman you have a lot of irons in the fire. I understand you are representing the people. I understand that picking issues is important and also difficult. But how in the Hell can you look at a constituent and tell her that you only care about the treatment her husband gets.
Our veterans are our national treasures and their caregivers are the hidden heroes that help them heal everyday from the wounds of war. It doesn't matter what state they reside in, you should care about them all. I know I do!
One thing I have learned from my week in DC is I now know where to invest my time. It's sad to say that I will not spend anymore time on the man I voted for and he lost my future votes. And I find it interesting that people I cannot vote for value my opinion and are still in touch with me. I have always loved politics, heck my degree is in it. (So yes, I do actually know how bills become laws and so on.) I am more invested now than I ever thought I would be. I just pray that as my life moves on, I will never become as flippant as the man I voted for.