I wrote the following letter after having met a very impressive person.
The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington DC 20420
January 11, 2012
Dear Secretary Shinseki:
I trust this letter finds you and your family in good health and you looking with anticipation toward the future endeavors of the VA. I am writing to you to express my appreciation regarding the level of service provided to me by a particular employee during a visit to my local eye clinic. Realizing that the VA is not often praised, and individuals not often recognized, for the positive things done for us veterans, I thought I would take this time to do just that.
I am an average ex-GI from the Viet Nam era nearing the retirement years and I have been using VA medical services for a little over a year. Having lost a full time job, I was somewhat forced into seeking medical assistance from the VA. I am happy to report that my experience thus far with services provided to me have been very good and the staff I have interacted with have been polite, cordial, and generally friendly. Being a Type II diabetic I decided that I better have my vision checked and to get corrective lenses. When I arrived at the Southwest Las Vegas VA Eye Clinic (on Jones Blvd.) and spent a few minutes in the waiting area, I was called up by Dr. Tina D. Aldana.
I was immediately taken by her friendliness and sincere welcome; her eye contact showed she cared rather than just accepting I was just another vet. After showing me into her exam office her professionalism took over and she began the various eye exam processes, explaining to me what each step does… and making me feel at ease as we exchanged a little about ourselves during our cordial interaction. I shared with her that I was not a Vietnam vet but from that era. She followed with an amazing history of her being Vietnamese; her father having been an ARVN doctor who, with her mother, had escaped the fall of Saigon by boat as the Viet Cong shells were landing in the area. A U.S. ship rescued them and after they settled in the States she went on to become a degreed educator… an English teacher. Her brother became a paramedic and ultimately opened a restaurant. What led her to become a doctor of optometry was the death of her cousin… a military doctor of optometry stationed in Iraq… due to an IED. She felt a calling to serve in his memory and went back to school to become a doctor and help veterans. A story worth a book, to be sure. But at a time in this country where we aren’t speaking so fondly of foreign immigration, legal or otherwise, her story illustrates the contributions of those who value the freedoms we have here… many times making the rest of us feel humbled by comparison at their achievements.
After she applied some eye drops I had to return to the waiting area for the effects to take hold for the next exam. Upon returning to her exam office I shared with her my personal frustration at having to use VA services at all. Not because of some perceived idea of less-than-quality medical care but rather I didn’t feel qualified to sit in the same room as these other veterans, who likely gave far more in their service than I ever did. Generally speaking, I am usually the youngest in the waiting rooms; vets from WW2, Korea, Vietnam… in wheel chairs, using walkers, canes, etc. I find myself humbled at being there while I am fully ambulatory and my illness hasn’t become a real health problem yet. She told me it was all about having respect for any who served in the military and that is why she was there in her position. Dr. Aldana demonstrated a sincerity and compassion along with her professional service. She could have treated me more as a matter-of-fact and hustled me out the door, but her dedication was impressive… and we were together not for any great length of time, making sure we kept to a schedule to serve other vets.
As a taxpayer I am proud that we have Dr. Aldana working in such a benevolent position. As a patient I appreciate her service and professionalism in how I was treated. As a result, I am letting her “boss” know my appreciation. I wish you good health and good wishes for the coming year.