Sharing Stories Of War And Racism In The VA Waiting Room

The Long March
Naval History and Heritage Command

I showed up an hour early to my post op appointment today.

I decide to sit in the waiting room and catch up on “Gunsmoke” episodes on TNT. I sit in between two elderly African-American war vets from the Navy. One served on the USS Ranger during Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The other one, slightly younger, finished his 33 year Navy career as part of the Iran Hostage rescue effort.

It is not often I find myself completely inadequate to engage in a conversation. They told incredible stories of their time in uniform and in combat. They told heartbreaking stories of racial divide in the ‘60s, of African-American sailors hung in the bathrooms of their ship or tossed overboard.

They asked me dozens of questions of my experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, serving with multiple races and with women in combat and the Infantry. We laughed, listened and cried.

A nurse enters the room and starts calling our names to meet our docs. We shake hands and hug as we go our separate ways. The eldest vet makes a phone call, and we overheard him say, “Hey ma’am, I need to cancel my therapy appointment today. I just had the best session in years and I think I’m good this week. See you next week!”

Ok news: I did not get cleared from post op. Need to return next month. It looks like there is still a hole remaining in the palate but cannot confirm due to inflammation and the fact surgery was just last week. We will let it heal another month and try again.

The Awesome News: The VA’s toilet paper dispenser is still not fixed. And this was the first time that there was NO toilet paper in the dispenser. I’m not really sure what to do at this point. I asked five VA employees to point me in the direction of the mechanic shop or maintenance staff, and they all just stared at me with stating that wasn’t their job and walked off.

Thank you for all of your thoughts, calls, texts, emails, etc. They mean a lot to my family and I and absolutely contribute to a speedy recovery. I’ve been offline since surgery so I apologize I haven’t been able to respond to you all. I’ll get caught up this coming week.

Maj. D.J. Skelton is a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He led an infantry platoon at Second Fallujah and later commanded an infantry company in Afghanistan. He had hoped to be finished soon with his surgeries. He is not affiliated in any way with any company making or marketing toilet paper. This article represents his own views, which are not necessarily those of the Army, Navy or Department of Defense.  

After more than a decade and billions spent developing the consistently troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Air Force is eyeing a new variant of the F-15 — much to lawmakers' dismay.

Read More Show Less
Islamic state members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 18, 2019. (Reuters/Rodi Said)

NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) - The Islamic State appeared closer to defeat in its last enclave in eastern Syria on Wednesday, as a civilian convoy left the besieged area where U.S.-backed forces estimate a few hundred jihadists are still holed up.

Read More Show Less
Russian President Vladimir Putin fires a fortress cannon. (Associated Press/Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin)

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that Russia will target the U.S. with new weapons should Washington decide to deploy intermediate-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to Europe following the recent death of a Cold War-era arms control agreement, according to multiple reports.

He threatened to target not only the host countries where U.S. missiles might be stationed but also decision-making centers in the U.S.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 317th Airlift Wing walk to waiting family members and friends after stepping off of a C-130J Super Hercules at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Sept. 17, 2018 (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Mercedes Porter)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The U.S. Air Force has issued new guidelines for active-duty, reserve and National Guard airmen who are considered non-deployable, and officials will immediately begin flagging those who have been unable to deploy for 12 consecutive months for separation consideration.

Read More Show Less
Pictured left to right: Pedro Pascal ("Catfish"), Garrett Hedlund ("Ben"), Charlie Hunnam ("Ironhead"), and Ben Affleck ("Redfly") Photo Courtesy of Netflix

A new trailer for Netflix's Triple Frontier dropped last week, and it looks like a gritty mash-up of post-9/11 war dramas Zero Dark Thirty and Hurt Locker and crime thrillers Narcos and The Town.

Read More Show Less