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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Greetings and Salutations to All my Kith and Kin and All the Ships in Outer Space:

I wish I had some pictures to show you from our tree lighting ceremony, but maybe there'll be one published in our next issue of the COMMUNICATOR, the official newspaper of the Armed Forces Retirement Home, as Sheila Abarr, the Home's public affairs officer, was present and snapped numerous photographs.

To begin with, I did recover from my coughing fits, and was able to perform.

There's still problems with the air coming from the ventilation duct in my room being contaminated, but with plenty of rest, lots of pills, opening my windows, and running fans, I was able to breathe and sing.

Apparently, the water in my room is also contaminated, because the indicator light on my purification filter changed from green to red.

Boy, I'm going through a lot of those water purification filters really fast!

Yes, I've repeatedly called Maintenance, but they haven't yet responded.

Furthermore, after jeopardizing my health, the administration here at the Soldiers' Home now has the gall to triple the amount of user fee I'm illegally required to pay each month, beginning in January.

Mox nix.

Anyway, on Tuesday 04 December 2007 at 1000 Hours, members of the Soldiers' Home chorus met down at the King Health Center to entertain the residents as their Christmas tree was lit.

I wore my kilt, and since this event wasn't formal, I wore moccasin boots, an Army sweater, and my Santa Claus cap, with my clan badge fastened to it.

The Catholic priest did an invocation, but it wasn't like any invocation I'd ever heard or seen.

No one bowed their heads, no one doffed their caps, and the priest just talked to the group, rather than offer an actual prayer.

What, has prayer now been banned at the Soldiers' Home?


The King Health Center used to be our hospital, but now I think it's more properly considered a hospice, or to put it even more bluntly, a charnel house.

It's rather obvious that anyone who enters is never coming out - - - alive.

I also strongly suspect rampant negligence and mistreatment of patients by the staff.

In the evening, at 1800 Hours, I went to the Douglas Hungerford Memorial Theatre in the Scott Building for the formal tree lighting ceremony of the Soldiers' Home.

Because it was a more formal setting, I wore my kilt and plaid, with miniature medals on my lapel, white shirt with black bow tie, and Santa Claus cap with clan badge attached.

Once again, the Catholic chaplain gave what was supposed to be an invocation, but obviously wasn't.

The United States Army Brass Band Quintet performed several numbers, and the chief operating officer, Tim Cox, spoke a few words, prior to the tree lights being activated.

Our little Soldiers' Home chorus sang a few carols, and then I did my solos of "CHRISTMAS EVE IN WASHINGTON", "BELLS OF SAINT MARY'S", and "NOLLAIG CHRIDHEIL".

As I sang, I did have a recurring distraction with my Santa Claus cap continually falling down over my eyes.

I reckon I need to sing without wearing a cap, because those things just get in my way.

After the program, everybody went out into the lobby for refreshments, and I was surrounded by ladies with comments and questions about Scotland and my kilt.

I was sadly surprised to learn of the recent death of Sam Brabson, one of the chorus members here in the Soldiers' Home.

One fellow asked me if I was a Mormon, and when I said I was, he said he had a book and I was in it.

The only history books I know of that mention me have photographs of me when I was a young soldier in a far away war.

Since I am now old and fat, with balding head and a full set of whiskers, I wonder how he could have recognized me?

After making it back to my room, and unlaxing for the next night or day, I enjoyed observing today's unexpected snowfall.

But, now I'm back to fighting off depression, and hiding within my room.

I sense that there is something in my character that requires I perform before an audience in order to feel right.

After a performance, when I have no more obligations, my whole system just crashes, and I stop caring about life.

I didn't used to be that way, but that's how I am now.

It's funny how I'll suddenly get excitedly interested in something, and then, without rational explanation, I'll just as quickly get bored and burn out.

The criminal mismanagement here at the Soldiers' Home sure doesn't help much.

I observed a posted notice of a memorial service for one of our recently deceased residents.

Has anyone besides myself noticed that we no longer have funerals at the Soldiers' Home, but only memorial services?

That's because the Soldiers' Home shut down the mortuary and has contracted out to local funeral homes, all of which are located in a bad area.

So, bodies of Soldiers' Home residents either turn up missing or don't get the military honors they're entitled to.

And let's be honest about race.

When I say "bad area", we all know exactly what I'm referring to, and why.

That's also why our medical treatment is so substandard.

I did notice one very unexpected improvement.

In the hallway leading to our gym, there's now an automatic defibrillator in a rack mounted on the wall.

What a great idea!

Ah, but that thing's going to get stolen, just wait and see.

Shucky darn, maybe I'll steal it and include it with my own medical trauma response kit.

Aside from that, the current management here at the Soldiers' Home seems to be deliberately reversing history.

There used to be copies of a book in our library, a history of the Soldiers' Home.

Those copies have all been stolen, along with many other historical books, documents, maps, and photographs.

But, I remember reading about the early years of the Soldiers' Home.

Old soldiers dreaded coming here, for there was nothing to do except wait around for the Grim Reaper.

Since then, the Soldiers' Home developed into a vibrant and active full service retirement community, a really wonderful place to live.

But, all of that has now changed.

In the efforts to save money, many employees have been fired, many programs and benefits have been taken away, and standard health and safety rules are ignored.

No longer is admission restricted to only those who are healthy enough to walk and care for themselves, and the multitude of walkers and wheelchairs, combined with the prevalence of senility, clog up the hallways and make chow lines in the mess hall unnavigable, as these buildings weren't originally designed for this.

Once again, the Soldiers' Home is back to being the kind of place an old soldier would be terrified to go to, for there's nothing here except waiting for the inevitable.

Here in my room, I listen to Security on my amateur radio, hearing the emergency calls for ambulances, or responses to deaths.

That's every day and every night.

If I were to go outside, I could listen to the gunshots and sirens.

Yes, my room is fully furnished and comfortable (except for the air and the water), and I reckon that's why I see no reason to go outside my door.

I wonder if there's any way to change this situation?

There doesn't seem to be any accountability, culpability, or liability where the management is concerned.

The Pentagon used to be in charge, but I don't think they are anymore.

I don't know who is.

Thank you.

John Robert "SAIGON" Mallernee, KB3KWS
Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

NOTE: "My unpopular and controversial personal opinions are independent of my Scottish clan."

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