A Dollar’s Worth
By Alisa Dollar
I worked for a research program housed in a regional VA facility. I ventured into a room to buy coffee and found not-friendly veterans. Eras and wars have distinct markings. Vietnam often wears disillusionment - like an old glove, one-size-fits-all, misshapen, frazzled, well worn-yet durable and still used. Eyes warily observed me. No hearty welcome while thoroughly examined. I turned to leave and noticed the dollhouse.
Elegant and magnificently built, trimmed to perfection, brimming with exquisite furnishings, it perched on a pedestal-like table. Drawn to its beauty, I commented on its craftsmanship, immediately evoking animated conversation concerning its history. A man walked me in every room. Pride was evident and excitement contagious. I’d been too busy to create for the joy of accomplishment.
Seeing multiple crafts in varying degrees of completion, awareness unfolded - I was in the craft room. Veterans weren’t too busy. They were rebuilding lives in a restorative manner with construction of this dollhouse.
All wars carry scars and emotional blemishes. Many left home innocents, joining to make a mark and came home changed - and forever labeled. Especially Vietnam.
My own mark lay heavily within my soul, burdening my spirit.
I’m not a veteran. I found myself to be a label maker. I strove for understanding.
I’d sought in a quest for understanding of why some served without question while others balked to the point of denouncing the very citizenship and freedom others fought to maintain.
It took getting lost in that craft room of the VA hospital for knowledge to come full circle. These veterans began to open doors. Faces brought names. I wanted what they sought – acceptance--to give back what I’d taken by labeling.
The dollhouse became a symbol of what it’s about. Home. America. A right to be; to stand; to be beautiful; to be free.
Finally, I understood.
It is not a right.
It is a privilege, often abused.
In my case I simply didn’t look further than the end of my nose.
Thank you seems too trivial and comes out of mouths so easily. There’s no way for those of us who aren’t veterans to know what you’ve given and given up.
Since then, I’ve verbally thanked every person I’ve seen in a cap or uniform with a “thank you for your service to America.”
Our privileges are many and blessed because you served.
Thank you cannot be said enough!