Doing Little To Take Care of Our Wounded Soldiers

June 18, 2007 at 7:42 am | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, corruption, gay bomb, George W Bush, Iraq, Military, secret combinations, violence | 2 Comments

The tragedy continues, and gets worse and worse. The government has not been giving the soldiers in Iraq the best protection, has done a piss-poor job at treating wounded soldiers at Walter Reed (and numerous other facilities around the nation), and now we read in yesterday’s Washington Post that again at Walter Reed, soldiers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder are getting short-changed and mistreated. Here’s a small snippet, though the whole article is a MUST read.

On the military plane that crossed the ocean at night, the wounded lay in stretchers stacked three high. The drone of engines was broken by the occasional sound of moaning. Sedated and sleeping, Pfc. Joshua Calloway was at the top of one stack last September. Unlike the others around him, Calloway was handcuffed to his stretcher.

When the 20-year-old infantry soldier woke up, he was on the locked-down psychiatric ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. A nurse handed him pajamas and a robe, but they reminded him of the flowing clothes worn by Iraqi men. He told the nurse, “I don’t want to look like a freakin’ Haj.” He wanted his uniform. Request denied. Shoelaces and belts were prohibited.

Calloway felt naked without his M-4, his constant companion during his tour south of Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division. The year-long deployment claimed the lives of 50 soldiers in his brigade. Two committed suicide. Calloway, blue-eyed and lantern-jawed, lasted nine months — until the afternoon he watched his sergeant step on a pressure-plate bomb in the road. The young soldier’s knees buckled and he vomited in the reeds before he was ordered to help collect body parts. A few days later he was sent to the combat-stress trailers, where he was given antidepressants and rest, but after a week he was still twitching and sleepless. The Army decided that his war was over.

Every month, 20 to 40 soldiers are evacuated from Iraq because of mental problems, according to the Army. Most are sent to Walter Reed along with other war-wounded. For amputees, the nation’s top Army hospital offers state-of-the-art prosthetics and physical rehab programs, and soon, a new $10 million amputee center with a rappelling wall and virtual reality center.

Nothing so gleaming exists for soldiers with diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, who in the Army alone outnumber all of the war’s amputees by 43 to 1. The Army has no PTSD center at Walter Reed, and its psychiatric treatment is weak compared with the best PTSD programs the government offers. Instead of receiving focused attention, soldiers with combat-stress disorders are mixed in with psych patients who have issues ranging from schizophrenia to marital strife.

Even though Walter Reed maintains the largest psychiatric department in the Army, it lacks enough psychiatrists and clinicians to properly treat the growing number of soldiers returning with combat stress. Earlier this year, the head of psychiatry sent out an “SOS” memo desperately seeking more clinical help.

Individual therapy with a trained clinician, a key element in recovery from PTSD, is infrequent, and targeted group therapy is offered only twice a week.

Young Pfc. Calloway was put in robes that first night. His dreams were infected by corpses. He tasted blood in his mouth. He was paranoid and jumpy. He couldn’t stop the movie inside his head of Sgt. Matthew Vosbein stepping on the bomb. His memory was shot. His insides burned.

Calloway’s mother came to Walter Reed from Ohio and told the psychiatrist everything she knew about her son. Sitting in the office for the interview, Calloway jiggled his leg and put his head in his hands as he described his tour in Iraq. His mental history was probed and more notes were taken. The trivia of his life — a beagle named Zoe, a job during high school at a Meijer superstore, a love of World War II history — competed with what he had become.

“I can’t remember who I was before I went into the Army,” he said later. “Put me in a war for a year, my brain becomes a certain way. My brain is a big, black ball of crap with this brick wall in front of it.”

After a week in the lockdown unit, Calloway was stabilized. They gave him back his shoelaces and belt. On the 10th day, he was released and turned over to outpatient psychiatry for treatment. And Calloway, a casualty without a scratch, began the longest season of his young life.

It is absolutely reprehensible that our nation and our government does not take care of those who supposedly fight for our very existence, but let them languish in their mental horrors. Then again this should tell you how much the Pentagon truly understands the human mind.

2 Comments »

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  1. Air America radio had an interesting program over the weekend. I didn’t listen long enough to be able to remember the guest’s name, but the basic gist of his message was that 17% of of the troops in Iraq end up with severe, physical brain trauma as a result of the percussive IEDs that go off and tend to do a little brain-scrambling as they do so, and the mental problems that are going to manifest themselves over the years as a result of this are going to be horrendous. Those that do see doctors to handle the PTSD only are allowed to see said doctor on a one-visit-a-month basis, and often, when they go back for their second visit, the doctor that was there for them on the first visit isn’t the one available on the second visit.

    In the Vietnam war, the demographics of the soldiers was very different from what they are now. The average soldier is much older now than was the basic Vietnam “grunt”, and is more likely to be married with children. This puts a lot more stress on soldiers who have more responsibilities to those they have left behind. Marriages are being destroyed left and right by the physical and mental damage that is being done to these soldiers, so the soldiers are not the only victims in all of this.

    Basically, we don’t have a clue yet as to what the real costs of this occupation are going to end up being.

    Shame on a President who never really served in the military for doing this to people who he evidently considers to be expendible in the quest for an end to “terrorism”. Shame on a Congress who washed its hands of the war-making powers and let said President do this unimpeded. Shame on an entertainment culture that for years and years has propagandized us into believing that war is no big deal, and that the only costs of war is an occasional dead body or two and that real men can just suck it up and get back to real life when it’s all over with no problems whatsoever.

    Hugh Nibley claimed that the essense of a lot of sin is waste. This is waste on a massive scale, and in a just universe, those who cause it will have to answer for it on a similar massive scale.

  2. It is truly one of the saddest consequences of this war. Unfortunately I fear that the war’s biggest supporters will simply avert their eyes to this travesty and claim it as just a natural consequence, that these soldiers need to be “men” and deal with it.


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