The Walking Wounded
Back in March of 2005, I wrote a post called The Purple Heart. I wrote about what I felt was the need to change the requirements for awarding the Purple Heart because I feel there are men and women injured in battle who are denied the Honor of the Purple Heart when they deserve the Medal. The criteria were modified not too long ago to encompass terrorist related service; but, that modification was very minor and does not begin to address the issues our troops find themselves in as they fight the War on Terror on all fronts in today’s environment!
There are also medical reasons why the Medal criteria ought to be changed. There are benefits bestowed on Purple Heart recipients at the VA due to their having been injured serving their country in combat. One such instance is validated in a post I found there today. I refer to the “Walking Wounded,” the soldiers who served their country and came home with PTSD. If you do not believe that PTSD results in serious injury to our troops then maybe the post below will change your mind. Please read Mark’s comments:
I agree with this cause. However, to be honest, before I would have thought this a stupid idea. After having spent a year in Iraq with as an Infantryman and having conducted over 200 combat missions, outside the wire, I have to admit I am wounded. Before the war, I was positive even cocky but respectful and successful. Now, I hate like hell to admit it, but part of me is broken. I would give almost anything to go back to the way I was before. I would love not to need the little pills that keep me from losing control of my emotions.
It may sound corny, but before Iraq, I felt a certain pride in the fact that I had the knowledge and skill to kill but the training and discipline not to act on impulse. Now, I feel differently, I pray that I will not lose it and harm myself or others especially those I love. I am haunted by smells, sights, sounds etc. that pull me back to the places I have been. Seeing my shadow on the ground outside of a restaurant in N.C. jerks my mind back to a dismount on a particularly bad night in Iraq. Certain, almost indescribable smells, take me to the scene of an explosion and a little girls partially blown off head. Some flashing lights on summer nights, when there is just a little smoke smell in the air, take me back to the scene of our guys burnt nearly to charcoal laying beside and sitting dead in a destroyed (un-armored) HUMVEE. Just standing in a crowd, especially at the Air Port, sets me on edge and has me reaching for my pills and or a drink to calm me down.
Had it not been for my wife, when I returned from Iraq, I would have walked out my front door and never come back. Even now, 2 years after I left, the head aches, night sweats, night mares and all the other afflictions from the war make my life less worth living than it should be.
To say that we who have served in combat and lived through all it has to offer, but not been physically injured by enemy action were not and are not wounded is to totally misunderstand the true nature of war.
Mark said this on October 21, 2007 at 4:15 pm
I believe it is tragic that a country so advanced technologically, and otherwise as ours should hold such antiquated views on “Mental” Health. I find it appalling that we send our men and women off to war and do not recognize the effects of that war and the way it impacts our troops! I find it appalling we do not address the “whole” person when it comes to providing medical care to our injured troops.
Maybe it is time that we reassess what is considered injurious to the health of our troops and their families. Just because a soldier comes home from war with two arms, two legs, two hands,and what appears to be a “whole” body free from injury does not mean that soldier is uninjured!
We all know how the physical injuries sustained in combat affect our troops and their ability to lead productive and meaningful lives. We also all know, or should know, that many of our major advances in certain areas of medical treatment were brought about by the military doctors as they attempted to save the life of soldiers injured in combat. Often the advances made on the field of battle, in the field hospitals, and the hospitals in places like Germany out pace the medical care available at home.
This has caused serious problems with the continued recovery of injured troops. The amazing field advances that saved a soldier from a certain death in the past and present are often negated by inadequate care at home. Poor funding causes lack of trained personal and equipment needed to continue the rehabilitative care of our troops. Recent media events validate this fact.
Frankly, I feel that the Va facilities were made to be scapegoats to a great degree. Their ability to maintain well staffed, modern facilities are greatly determined by the funding and support of Congress and the American public. If Congress fails to do its job and the public fails to hold Congress accountable, then the military is always in a situation where it must chose between providing what the soldier on the front line needs versus proper medical care at home. This I find appalling! It is also a negligent and indifferent attitude being displayed by both the Congress and the public who elected the members of Congress.
Our soldiers deserve quality medical care. PTSD victims deserve the same consideration and care, without the ignorant prejudice that often is attached to any type of mental health care. Most of our troops could go on to lead useful productive lives and careers in and out of the military with proper intervention and care. However, the antiquated attitudes of most Americans with regards to mental health prevent this outcome!
The medical profession must share a great deal of the burden for the continuance of these ignorant, biased, and out dated ideas we all seem to hold in America about Mental Health. Lack of agreement over diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis are often caught up in the battle of egos and turf wars.
But, the ultimate enemy to mental health is the insurance companies. They often dictate to physicians the patient care by their unwillingness to cover treatment plans. Since the 80’s my own treatment for PTSD and another serious mental health issue has been greatly hampered by changing insurance coverage. Pill pushing to provide quick but temporary fixes has lead to longer term recovery periods. Support groups and networks have virtually disappeared due to insurance restrictions.
I lost my entire support network I built up to help keep me stable and functioning. Thank God I am a very strong willed person and my love of my children caused me to find other ways to compensate for what I lost. It was not easy, believe me. It has taken its toll on my physical health . Untreated Mental Health disorders and illnesses can lead to heart disease and numerous other health issues. They can make you unable to work, take care of yourself, and deprive one of any sense of a decent quality of life.
Families and Marriages are ruined. Children are likewise placed in jeopardy due to parents not able to fully parent their kids. The kids can grow up using coping skills learned from their parents. But, these skills are not adequate for these kids to lead meaningful and productive lives. I personally lost everything I owned in my struggle to take care of myself and in turn get what I needed as a parent to keep my health issues from adversely affecting my kids as much as possible.
Failure by insurance companies to cover proper care and not quick temporary fixes costs even more in the long run. Kids are poorly parented or taken from their homes. Mental illnesses and disorders that might not have become life long battles do just that. Employers lose good workers forced into medical retirement and then in turn must pay millions in disability pay. Many people are denied the ability to be self sufficient and lead productive, meaningful lives.
If America cannot accept responsibility for refusing to address Mental Health issues for the population in general, how can we expect to provide proper Mental Health care for our troops. Studies are great! But, action and changes in attitude are progress! Isn’t it time we as a nation addressed this issue ‘as a nation.” Isn’t it time we took a leading role in Mental Health instead of the antiquated role we now hang onto?
For our kids, ourselves, our nation, and our troops we cannot continue to fail to address Mental Health issues.