New jet-powered bombers roared overhead low enough to shake the windows.

Military bases, especially in Florida, were beehives of activity, with the green-painted vehicles buzzing in and out and crammed with men and supplies.

Schools stepped up their Civil Defense training, ordering children to practice dropping to their seats under their desk or in the hall.

Black-and-white television sets carried non-stop chatter once the story broke.

America was on the brink of war.

Such was life during the Cuban missile crisis during autumn 1962.

The now-defunct Soviet Union had supplied nuclear missiles to the island of Cuba, only 90 miles south of Florida, and I was but a baby in the arms of babes visiting my grandparents in Tampa, Fla.

It is easy for my parents today to share the details, because details are hard to forget when you are that close to World War III and nuclear holocaust. We were on the front lines.

Our reason for being there had little to do with preparing for combat.

No, it was because of me.

I couldn't stop crying.

And Florida happened to be where my mother's mother lived.

I was the first-born, and my mother needed new-mother advice and some sleep while someone else sat up late. So, she went to a war zone to get it.

There are a couple of points to this personal anecdote.

One, regarding the recent stories we published about Medicare and the severe problem we have with local access to health care for Medicare users, where do you go for help if you need it?

Two, could Cuba, of all places, be a role model?

***

Castro, communism and Cuba was never a combination I learned to appreciate.

I grew up during the Cold War when communism was the bitter enemy to freedom, and warlords like Castro, Cuba's dictator, were considered men of evil.

Then I went to that liberal institution known as a university and learned that not all of the evil was so one-sided. Sure, communism and Castro remained the enemy to freedom, and my conservative upbringing never allowed me to forget that. But what I learned was that the United States wasn't so smart in allowing conditions to get to the point that someone like Castro could rise to power in the first place.

The United States used Cuba as its playground. It dictated Cuba's politics and agenda. Because we failed to grasp the need for allowing democracy to grow in Cuba like it did in America, the seeds of change simply grew a different tree than the one we pictured with liberty.

Meaning, no matter how conservative or liberal you are regarding Cuba, you can't blame the origins of the problem on Castro. It started before then, when we Americans seemed to forget about the needs of the Cuban people, not just the Cuban puppets in government.

So what in a box of cigars does this have to do with Medicare here at home?

One of the more interesting interviews I have conducted in my career was with former President Jimmy Carter.

I've met with Carter on several occasions, and actually once ended up spending a week with him working on the same house during an international Habitat for Humanity project. I am one of those who agrees that he might have a greater legacy for his post-presidency work than that done his presidency.

He is a good man, despite what you think of his politics, which never seemed to satisfy anyone, including my family. My Dad still carries a grudge that Carter gave away the Panama Canal. Carter said he had to, or terrorism and war likely was imminent.

During the lengthy sit-down interview he allowed me soon after I first met him, one of the topics that came up was health care. The country he named that America should study?

Cuba.

Castro did many things to hurt his people, many selfish things bent more toward ensuring his power than benefiting the people. Poverty conditions exist over much of the nation because of his stubborn dedication to communism and anything anti-America.

No, Carter was not suggesting Cuba become an American tourism hot spot. He simply was pointing out that the one thing Cuba did do right was place a tremendous importance on health care.

Cuban people know that is the one thing they will get, not withstanding the belief that perhaps many of Cuba's trained doctors were ordered to study medicine at gunpoint. Nevertheless, everyone gets health care.

We cannot say that in America.

***

It was heartbreaking to read about some of the problems exposed during The Daily Times' recent series about the Medicare crisis much of the nation is facing, but especially here at home. People, including those in their senior or near-senior years, cannot find a doctor who will accept them as a patient, even if the patient has a good insurance policy in addition to Medicare.

They argue older patients simply take up too much of their time with too many problems, and that limits their time and attention for other patients.

Forget it if the patient only has Medicare. That bit of bureaucracy is as likely to drown a person as was Noah's flood.

At least Noah had an arc.

Medicare patients have very few, if any, options.

What does it tell you if a columnist writing about health care spends much of the column talking about Cuba?

That's a sad, sad, state of affairs being painted.

That, however, is exactly the picture. This nation, namely our Congressional delegation, had better get its butt in gear or some granny is going to kick it, right down to Cuba.

Medicare and free enterprise are supposed to be two of the things our 50-and-over population can see as success stories.

The Cold War generation isn't taking very kindly to the realization that perhaps poor Cuba has something better than America in the way of lifestyle.

Like access to a doctor.

Fix it.

Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, N.M., 87499; or at tturner@daily-times.com.