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.

The Flamin’ Gay Bomb

June 13, 2007 at 11:04 pm | Posted in American politics, gay bomb, Military | 1 Comment

TRex at Firedoglake has written a post about the ridiculous Pentagon research into a “gay bomb.” He writes, confessionally:

I know that many of you may believe that this story is too ridiculous to be believed, but I know that it’s true. For you see, my father worked on that project, something that he has later said that he regrets, not only for its clear implausibility, but because of the toll it took on our family.

Sigh. This is a difficult story for me to tell. I hope my Dad doesn’t mind. I know that he signed documents stating that he would respect the classified nature of his work for twenty-five years after his retirement, but, well…part of this has to do with me, so I feel like I have the right to tell you the truth.

It was in 1970. My twin brother and I were toddlers and our family was living in on-base housing in Cocoa Beach, Florida at Patrick Air Force Base.

At 6:00pm, as usual, my father came through the door in his uniform, laid his briefcase on the hall table, and scooped up whichever baby was closest. On that fateful day, it was me.

Unbeknown to us all, there was a stray patch of Teh Gay still on his uniform jacket. My mother was the first to notice.

“Charles!” she cried, “Your jacket! The baby!”

“Jesus Christ!” my father said, “Oh, god, what have I done?”

They rushed me to the bathroom where they held me under the steaming spray from the shower-nozzle, frantically scrubbing away with washcloths and brushes. They got rid of all the visible residual Gayness, but still scrubbed until my skin was pink and I began to wail in protest.

My mother tenderly laid me out on the bed with my father hovering nearby, praying that the damage hadn’t already been done.

“He seems okay,” my mother said, drying my face and ears.

“Gucci!” I said, “Arugula! Pucci, Luiviton!”

“He’s just babbling gibberish,” my Dad said, “I guess we got it in time.”

But tears ran down my mother’s face. She knew.

And that’s the story of how the Gay Bomb has affected me. Most days, I just thank god that I wasn’t affected by any of the other top-secret projects that my father was working on at the time, like the Wedgie Bomb, the repeating Spitball Cannon, or Cootie Gas. I understand that the specialists working on these projects only wanted what was best for our country. I mean, if you could turn an entire enemy army gay and give them cooties, you’d be the mightiest army on earth. And while I guess there was just no way of knowing the toll that The Gay Bomb would take in my life and in the life of my family, I do sometimes wonder how things might have been.


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