L/CPL Robert J. Slattery, Det #206, "SCUTTLEBUTT NEWS", Jan 2021 - #6

Michael Dougherty, Judge Advocate

Had anyone heard of a "pandemic" before this time last year? By now, we all know what it is, and significantly, what it means to us as a society and as individuals. Protective masks, keeping distance, frequent hand washing, cancelled trips and virtual meetings are all part of the new normal,

Now, we have vaccination anxiety to deal with. Should I get it? (We each decide individually, but I believe the answer is an emphatic "yes!".) The next question is "Can I get it"? Limited supply and difficulty with distribution have severely curtailed availability.

On Friday, February 12th, Commandant Ed Neas notified several of us that he had learned that the Lyons VA was having Covid19 vaccinations without appointment the next day, from 9:00 until 15:00 or until the vaccine was used up. The only requirements were 65 years old or older and registered with the VA.

In light of the near- impossibility of obtaining the vaccine in the civilian world, this opportunity seemed too good to be true, and it almost was.

By 7:30, the line of Veterans at the entrance easily numbered over 100. By 10:00, the line extended out of the parking lot and across the front of both Building 3 and the next building. It stretched the entire length of the sidewalk and by 10:40, all of the available inoculations had been reserved. Anyone still in line was entered on a list for contact in the future.

Then the fun began for the lucky(?) 450-500 souls who made the list and were now awaiting the phone call to come in and get the shot. The instructions were to wait in the car until called to return to the building to receive the vaccine. Sounds simple enough but as the hours passed the crowd began to realize that this was to be no easy "in an' out" .

Those who signed in at 7:30 were finally processed around 15:00. Many others were seen even later but the workers and staff promised to stay as long as necessary until the last dose was administered which turned out to be sometime that evening,

Now for the interesting part. Just about every one of the Veterans was wearing a cover or jacket which identified his or her branch of service and, in many cases, the unit with which they served Conversations struck up throughout the day, as strangers began to acknowledge the insignia and to question each other about the experiences revealed in the patches or pins.

These spontaneous sessions usually started in one of the several lines that formed inside and out. There was the initial line to register; there were lines to use the head (fortunately, the heads remained available and well maintained throughout the day); there was a line to get to the desk and try to get information. The lines eventually broke into small groups where the conversations continued. It seemed that many Veterans were as grateful for the opportunity to talk with their brothers as they were for the vaccine. Of course all branches were represented but it appeared from the jackets and covers that the Marines were exceptionally well represented.

Left to their own devices for hours without any instruction, direction or information ( other than "go to your car and wait for the call") the entire group was generally patient, orderly and well behaved. Social distancing was negligible but everyone complied with the face mask requirement.

The staff at the VA , including the VA Police, the VA Firefighters, the nurses and the administrative staff were respectful and polite. The actual process of inoculation went smoothly, especially after the great sense of relief experienced once "the call" was received. Second shots were scheduled by appointment for a month later for a date and time certain.

Recognizing the complexity of organizing a "walk-in" without appointment for an infmite number of Veterans and a limited supply of vaccine, much credit is due to our VA and the personnel on site. They did all they could with what they had, and under trying circumstances worked hard to provide for us.