"Cascade of Flames" Author Mary Goulet has dedicated her time to compiling testimonials of area veterans who have been treated at the VA in Hot Springs. The following is a sample of her work, which has been edited into a book entitled "Reveille in Hot Springs: The Battle to Save Our VA."
Video interviews are courtesy John Davis Photography and Skeeter Bite Productions.
“Once an addict, you are one for life, but the treatment I received at the VA Domiciliary in Hot Springs saved my life.”
A doctor from Minneapolis told Paul that he should seek help and that the best kept secret in the VA system was the excellent rehab treatment in the little town of Hot Springs, South Dakota.
Today Paul lives in Hot Springs. He feels that it is tranquil, and it is his “safe zone”. It is a place in which it is easier for him to stay clean, “away from the bad vibes of the larger cities”.
Paul Kelly, Hot Springs, Army Veteran
Ed Harvey, Hot Springs, Veteran
Duane Brewer, Pine Ridge, Vietnam Veteran
“If the veterans have to go on the open market for health care, they will be in a world of hurt.” Vern and his wife are apprehensive about their future. Their sense of security is wobbling. They worry about losing their safety net provided by the VA administration. They may soon be living with a “broken promise”.
Vern Lunde, Hot Springs, Army Veteran
Alfred Bone Shirt, St. Francis, Navy Veteran
“When I went to Vietnam I believed in the cause. I thought that communism would spread like the domino effect and I wanted to do my part to prevent that from happening. Six months into it I began to realize that it was a lost cause. They were a third world country and couldn’t, and, at times, wouldn’t defend themselves. It’s a tall order to go from a peasant country to a democracy. From that time on I was looking forward to getting out of the service, but I had a personal sense of responsibility and I had made a promise to my country. Now my country is breaking their promise to us.”
Fred Smith, Hot Springs, Marine Corps Veteran
“We fought the wars. We came home and fought to fit in. We fought to get our claims. And now we have to fight to save our Dom. It is not a battle I choose. It is a battle I have to do. And, if we lose, I can say at the end of the day, I did what I could do”.
John DiCiacco, Hot Springs, Vietnam Veteran
“I would not be here today if not for the Hot Springs VA."
Eric’s home is in Wyoming, an hour away from the VA in Wyoming, but every few weeks he drive the three hour drive to the Hot Springs VA to receive his medical help. He feels strongly that this VA saved his life.
“They know me by name up there. Hot Springs is a town where everybody accepts you. I feel at home here.”
Eric, who is 100% disabled, needs ongoing psychiatric care at the VA. He has PTSD and struggles with his addiction to alcohol.
“This place is part of my life. It hurts that they are trying to take it away.”
Eric Jankowski, Wyoming, Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran
In 2008, Lora moved to Rapid City to find work as part of her CWT program at the Hot Springs VA. She stayed at the shelter for a few months until she found affordable housing.
“Rapid City is not a place for people like us. In the hub, where we can afford to live, there are drug dealers, gangs, panhandlers and half empty liquor bottles lying on the streets. The dealers are working right across the street from the shelter. One day as I was coming home from work as a waitress, I was robbed by two guys who grabbed my purse with all my tips I had earned on my shift. The intensity of the triggers for losing sobriety is so high in Rapid City.”
After eight months in Rapid City, Lora relapsed. She did not find much help as an outpatient at the VA clinic. She returned to Hot Springs in 2011 to enter the PTSD program and to complete her CWT program.
“In Hot Springs I can walk the streets without worry about being accosted. There are no dealers on the streets, no panhandlers begging, and no liquor bottles lying around to tempt me. Here I can hang on to my sobriety”.
Lora Maynard, Hot Springs Dom, Army Veteran
“I believe that it is important for veterans to have trust in their medical providers. The loss of contact with the staff that they have bonded with over the years will sever that sense of security. I am also concerned about the increased hazards of the added miles, and the extra travel costs if the veterans in Cherry County, Nebraska, have to drive to Fort Meade or Rapid City.”
James Edwards, Valentine, Nebraska, Navy Veteran
“During my course of treatment in the Hot Springs VA, both the SART Program and the PTSD Program, continuing to the present, I was, and continue to be treated with dignity and respect. One does not get the level of care at a bigger, more chaotic medical facility such as Denver,
Cheyenne, or the local Vet’s center in larger towns. The care and treatment I received then, and since, has been the most comprehensive and personal that I have received at any VAMC. I stayed in the Black Hills area because of this treatment. To close and move the Hot Springs VA will not serve the veteran’s needs to the extent it does.”
Dan Putney, Army Veteran, Custer, SD
"Living with the physical and emotional trauma each day due to their service to our country has already compromised their functioning. Closing the BHHCS will only increase their stress. The hospital and community offer these vets the critical social affiliation. It is a place they can diminish their daily stress as it offers an environment in which they feel they have control of their lives. As medical and mental health professionals, we recognize the research which confirms that stress affects our moods and can increase the risk of stroke, sleep problems, memory problems, obesity, depressions, high blood pressure, heart disease, migraines, poor impulse control with increased risk for Alzheimer’s. The bottom line is this: Diminish the quality of their care – Increase the COSTS of their care!!!!"
Janis A. Di Ciacco, Ph.D
When Curt was in the PTSD program in Hot Springs, he met veterans from Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota. They were in this program because many of them knew it was the best recovery program in the VA system.
It will be “devastating” for Curt if the VA closes. The time it takes to get to Fort Meade or Rapid City could be a matter of life or death for him. The VA saved his life last year and it infuriates him that it may be closed. His health care, both physical and emotional, is all up there – in that very special hospital on the hill in Hot Springs, South Dakota.
Curt Sandine, US Navy Seabee Veteran, Hot Springs, SD