OTTUMWA, Iowa — Local veterans’ rights advocate Dustin Boates was “pretty peeved” this morning to find changes to preferential parking at the strip mall on US Route 34. Spaces previously reserved for current and former members of the armed forces had new signs redesignating them for health care professionals in appreciation of their efforts fighting COVID-19.
“This particular situation is going to behoove some pretty big changes,” Boates said. “Pronto. I saw someone pay for a cup of coffee for some guy the other day just because the guy was wearing hospital clothes. I just about threw up my cheese danish.”
“When I got back from Southeast Asia, people treated veterans like shit,” Boates continued. “Irregardless, when they started to make up for it after 9/11, I was like ‘About fucking time.’ So obviously, I always choose the designated space, because I have so much lost time to make up for, and I make sure to wear my cover, too” he said, gesturing at the hat on his head with the word “veteran” in 4-inch tall letters.
Boates served in the Navy “for most of 1990,” and supported a "humanitarian effort" in Thailand that lasted several weeks. He was “medically retired” for “resistant gonorrhea” shortly after the ship returned to San Diego.
“I served,” he said, raising his voice and gesticulating erratically. “Maybe some of these nurses and hospital orderlies are veterans, in which case, they are welcome to these parking spaces if they get here before me. But most are just going to work and putting band-aids on booboos, and telling people with sniffles to wash their hands.”
“Now, when I di di mau the gentleman’s boo-teak or the home improvement store, I got to walk a lot farther,” he said. “And these knees are like 15% of my disability check, so you know they’re bad.”
When it was pointed out that the parking lot is basically empty—including the space next to the health care workers’ parking—and that most Iowans are following CDC guidelines to stay at home, he said, “Doesn’t matter.”
“It is the principle,” he added, emphasizing the final word. “I fought for your rights, puking in the scuppers for days at a time in a North Atlantic gale that would make the average dental hygienist beg for death’s sweet, sweet release.”
“When I got home and my peep was all messed up, and the burning didn’t stop, not ever, I told my wife—she’s now my ex—I told her it was worth it.”
“This country made a contract with me and my brothers in uniform: You put on the colors, you stand on the wall, and we will never make you walk more than 75 feet from car to front door again.”
“I got y’all your freedom. You owe me.”
At that point, Boates finished loading 118 rolls of toilet paper into his Iroc-Z while muttering about finding the plaza manager for a “come to Petty Officer Jesus” moment.