People often ask me if J.R. and I have transportation of our own here in D.C. I use to be able to smile and brag about the Fund which provides a free rental car to the families of our nations wounded vets. However starting today I no longer have a rental car and will be stranded at Walter Reed.
In January I first heard about an organization that provides a free car while in D.C. As soon as I could I stopped at the Family Assistance Center and filled out the application for the car. The application was complete with my car insurance information as well as a photo copy of my drivers license. They faxed the paperwork over to the Fund and within a week I had a rental. I was so excited to pick up the car. For the first time since I had been at Walter Reed I was going to be able to go off post. After finding the dealership and checking in I was given directions to return every twenty-eight days to renew the car. I grabbed the keys and off I went.
Every twenty-eight days I have been back at the dealership to renew my rental. Every time it was the same deal. Walk in, tell them the mileage, sign a new piece of paper, and leave. In the past couple of months I became increasingly concerned about getting the car serviced. I had been driving the vehicle since January and they had yet to even give the car an oil change. Finally last week the maintenance required light appeared and here begins the real story.
I woke up this morning and knew that the first thing to be accomplished was getting the car serviced. I took a quick shower, threw my hair up, and ran out the door. I left with only my wallet and my blackberry. I was only planning on being gone for half an hour. After parking the car I ran inside. To my surprise there was a new employee working (Danielle). I told her that I had had my car since January and it had never been serviced and the maintenance light was on. Instantly the fun began.
"Don't you know that you're suppose to come in every twenty-eight days to renew this car? How could you have had it since January?"
I knew by the tone in her voice that this was going to be a lengthy conversation. After straightening out the facts and calmly telling her that I had been in every month like clockwork she started yelling at me again.
"Did you call *****? Did she approve this car for you? Because I don't have another car to put you in and it will be at least three hours to get it serviced."
"Who is *****???? And why would I call her to get the car approved. This was approved back in January!" Confused and frustrated I pressed on only to get yelled at further.
"You're suppose to call ***** every month and get the car approved before I can let you leave with it again. There are fifty people waiting for a vehicle and you have had this since January. Don't you know that you can't have the car all the time?"
At this point I'm beyond frustrated. I have no idea who ***** is, I have been bringing in the car every twenty-eight days, and I don't understand how I am in the wrong. I also can't figure out why I would have to turn my car in because there are other people on the list. Like everything else at Walter Reed, cars are first come first serve. Once you receive whatever it is you have been waiting for, it is yours until you leave post for good. I once again ask who ***** is and why I would have to contact her. The answer surprised me.
"Everybody knows they have to call *****. I bet you're just like the other young girl who was in here the other day who was lying about talking to *****. ***** hadn't approved her car and she was trying to beat the system. You're just being irresponsible and you're lying to me."
At this point I am pissed off. I refused to wait to speak with the all important ***** and told her to get me a cab back to Walter Reed and I would be back in three hours to pick up a vehicle.
"I can't provide you with a ride back to Walter Reed."
"OK. Then give me my car back since that lease technically goes through the 20th of this month and I'll return later when this is all sorted out."
"You can't leave when the maintenance light is on."
At this point the tears are rolling down my face and try as hard as I can, I cannot stop them. I tell her I'm leaving to go clean out the trunk and that she needs to provide transportation back to the hospital. I am at the car for no more than two minutes when she appears.
"Are you really only twenty years old?"
"They shouldn't have even given you a car in the first place. You have to be twenty-one to rent a car. There is no way I'm going to be putting you back in a car."
Now I really can't stop the tears. She handed me a kleenex and told me I had to "stop crying and be strong for my husband." I lost it. How dare she take away my vehicle and then try to tell me to be strong for my husband. This woman has no idea what we have been through in the last six months. She has now called me irresponsible, a liar, and a bad wife. I blew up at her. Needless to say I was given a ride back to Walter Reed... in my rental car that they took from me.
As soon as I walked through the door I started making phone calls. I have talked with the all powerful ***** and she simply made a bunch of excuses. She was the one that received my application back in January and approved my car. She had a copy of my drivers license which very clearly states my age. Instead of saying she made a mistake she blamed the Family Assistance Center, and the rental company. She then explained that although she would love to help me that there was just no possible way for me to rent a vehicle under the age of twenty-one. When asked if J.R. would be able to receive the free rental she said no. Apparently wounded soldiers are not allowed to rent a car.
I am now in D.C. with no car. If I have to go to the grocery store, I have to get a taxi. They provide taxi vouchers, but finding a cab who will accept them is no easy task. There is only one company who will take the vouchers and they're so busy that you have to schedule a pick up days in advance. Plus once I get to the store I can't have the cab wait. I have to let them go and then call them when I am done shopping and use another voucher to get home.
The age limit is bullshit. Most of the soldiers that are here at the hospital are fresh out of high school. They are young and their wives are young. The families have given up so much already. They have lost having a normal life, they've lost body parts, and they're away from home. The very least you can do is provide a car so they may buy groceries or go see a movie. This post is a hard place to live. At least with a car one can escape the life at Walter Reed if only for a few short hours.
To put the icing on the cake, my new blackberry is broken. Same problem as the razor. Fine one moment, big white screen the next. T-mobile can provide a loaner phone, but I would have to have a car so I could drive to the mall to pick up the phone.
It's been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.