DES MOINES, Iowa -- Even though the United States has essentially been at war since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it has struggled with properly caring for its returning veterans -- not enough beds or mental health services, officials lying about wait times for veterans seeking care and highly-publicized veterans' suicides, including two recently in Iowa.
Perhaps, it could follow the lead of Merrick Morrill, 9, of Des Moines.
Merrick and his family take part in the weekly indoor farmers market at the VA Central Iowa Health Care System in Des Moines.
"They probably deserve a lot more," Merrick says of his family efforts to give veterans fresh produce and baked goods options, "But it's nice to know we're doing a little for them."
The farmers market is a recent addition to the facility. Dietitian Teri Collins wrote:
"VACIHCS Farmers Market started in 2011 under the leadership of the Healing Environment Committee (HEC) – an initiative that fosters health, healing, well-being, and a sense of community through focusing on nutritional, cultural and nurturing aspects of food, arts and ambiance to increase improved health outcomes and satisfaction of Veterans and staff.
Our current market is a small collection of four local vendors specializing in; baked goods, fresh produce, honey, crafts, and farm fresh eggs, with Veterans favored as market vendors."
Tuesday, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst stopped by Merrick's table and also took a private tour of part of the facility that now offers specialized care for female veterans. Women make up one in ten veterans but the numbers are one in eight since the Iraq War, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Ernst said she appreciates the commitment toward women's care. "It's very important as we see more and more women veterans," Ernst said, "So they have space they can go to, a safe space, where they can talk about personal issues, receive the type of female-specific car is very important and it makes a lot of our female veterans feel at home here."
Ernst said her office is still reviewing recent suicides of Richard Miles of Des Moines and Brandon Ketchum of Davenport. Both men killed themselves after their families say the V.A. system failed to give them the care they needed.