Kevin Byrne: Welcome Home
After I was diagnosed in September 1999, I remained stationed at Camp Eagle (Korea). I was grounded from flying but still in command of D/1-6, an Air Cav maintenance troop. Stability provided comfort as I tried to adjust to my MS. The Army was my family and I was not ready for more changes. Further health complications in late June changed that; in a few short weeks I was back in the US for my MEB (Medical Evaluation Board) and outprocessing. My diagnose-to-retirement from the Army was a whirlwind of events and changes. With those changes came a flurry of emotions, mostly fear of the unknown.
The MEB world was a cold and lonely place. I felt as if everyone there had one single purpose: to separate me from my family. In two short months at Walter Reed my fate was decided and I was ‘separated from service’; I think of it as the ultimate divorce. Before I left, I was handed a copy of my medical records. The specialist told me “when you get where you are going, find the closest VA hospital. Bring these.”
When I get where I am going? What does that mean?
I ended up in Pittsburgh, PA. I had a new job and a new home. Now I needed to find a doctor. Pittsburgh has a VA hospital so I figured I would go there first then try to figure out what’s next. Dazed and confused, I found the room for inbound records. In October 2000, I walked up to the desk as a 28-year old retiree and handed over my records. That time was a blur; I don’t remember the names, faces or just about anything that happened that day. That day, however, has one crystal clear image in my mind. The gentleman behind the desk took my records. He reviewed the coversheet, quickly scanned some pages then looked up at me.
“Welcome Home, Captain Byrne”
“Welcome Home.” Those two words summed up that visit and every day since then. My family at the VA has been in lockstep with me ever since.
The VA always remains discreet, never calls attention to itself, and never expects any thanks. I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t remember most of the names, although everyone is sure to introduce themselves every time I come in. I do remember the care and support. I want to take this time to acknowledge some of the most amazing women and men I have ever met. This includes, but is no way limited to:
Thanks to these wonderful people, I realized that I never left my family after all. They just stopped wearing fatigues.
It’s great to be home with family!
Please visit Kevin’s website at www.brieandkevin.com
Date Posted: March 2012