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Subject:  A Tale of Two People Date:  1/10/2003  12:01 PM
Author:  Domingoknife Number:  13374 of 53806

I was at your friendly neighborhood apothecary yesterday, when an elderly gentleman comes up to my window and politely asks if he could ask me a few questions. He was on Medicare, and from what I gathered about his situation there have been some changes in his plan so that he has to pay an extra 40 dollars a month for something or other. Apparently, if you were born between around 1918 and 1926 or so, your Social Security benefits are reduced or something—I didn't understand that part, as I am certainly no expert in government benefits. I told him that his best bet was to call Social Security and ask them what has been changed and go from there.

We chatted for another few seconds, and he asked me if I had a minute—he wanted to show me a picture. He asked me if I'd heard of the movie Memphis Belle, which I have seen, and said that he was stationed with the outfit depicted in the movie. He produced a picture of himself at 18 years old in his flight suit—he was a radio operator and gunner on those old B-17s back in World War Two. He chuckled, and said, "I always tell the ladies that I haven't changed a bit!" with a twinkle of mischief in his eyes. The young man looking back at me in the picture exuded confidence—like he could beat Hitler by himself armed only with his wit and cunning. He also had a picture of his flight crew, who all miraculously made it out alive from the war after 30-plus flights over Berlin. On one flight, he was stationed at his radio "desk" as he called it, and turned 180 degrees in his swivel chair for a few seconds to make some sort of adjustment. Turning back around, he saw two large holes where his legs would have been a moment earlier, shot from below by some unseen anti-aircraft guns.

As he was apologizing for taking up my time (looking around to make sure nobody was listening) "bullshitting" with me, I see a young woman who had dropped off a prescription a few minutes earlier approach the cash register 15 feet to my right. She was on Medicaid, meaning she pays a dollar for all her medication, and her three children pay nothing for any medicines. Right as I'm finishing shaking the gentleman's hand and thanking him for his service to our country, I hear this woman slam her hand down on the counter and say "Does anybody work here?" in a tone exactly as you would expect. She had been standing there for at most 30 seconds.

Luckily for me, my technician who had been filling out some paperwork at the other end of the pharmacy beat me to the register to ring up her total of one dollar. I was so mad I couldn't see straight. Here is a WWII veteran who is worried about his fixed income being reduced for some unknown, unexplained extra payment he has to make. The man almost died for his country, I'm sure on more than just that one occasion he mentioned. And this woman is mad because she had to wait a few seconds to pay her dollar for her medication.

I hold no ill will to those people that need such government run assistance. There are many good, decent people that really need the help. But is has also been my experience that many who are on Medicaid seem to have a sense of entitlement, at least in regards to their prescriptions. They are rude, demanding, and impatient. And the reputation, around here at least, is that the younger benefactors tend to be less motivated to get away from the entitlements the government gives them. More specifically, they won't take a job flipping hamburgers when it means that it would cut off the flow of money and benefits from Uncle Sam.

After the gentleman and woman left, the irony hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't know the answer, but something definitely isn't right about our government's handling of the situation I just experienced. It will be a long time before I forget about that radio operator/gunner who took some time out of his day to make a positive impact on me. Here's hoping that more Americans will appreciate his dignity, character, charisma, valor, and service.

Thank you, Mr. Veteran.

DK
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