November 11, 2011
Lon Wagner visits the VA Medical Center in Hampton, Va., to discover what it means to be a veteran.
It’s pretty much any day at the VA Medical Center in Hampton, Va.—and every last parking spot outside of the main hospital is filled. Drivers circle, cars idle, waiting for someone to back out.
Wars or conflicts or “operations” have been steady over the past seven or eight decades. Here, it’s all added up to this:
A full parking lot. Full buildings. A construction schedule that can barely keep up. Suffice to say that here, right across the water from Norfolk Naval Station, just miles from military strongholds such as Oceana Naval Air Station, Fort Eustis, Little Creek Amphibious Base and too many other bases to name, active-duty soldiers and sailors get familiar with the turf and stick around when they retire. And the older they get, the more they come here, to the VA Medical Center.
So it is that here, a person could walk the halls on any day, almost introduce himself to anyone, at any time, and find a story.
And if that person introduced himself to enough men and women, enough veterans of the U.S. military, he could piece together a pretty good story.
He could tell, by talking to these veterans, a pretty honest version of the recent history of America.