color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: How Do We Treat Our Wounded?

Monday, May 15, 2006

How Do We Treat Our Wounded?

Update: from the father of one of the soldier's in the stories below:

That is a great post and, like you, I believe this should not be a reflection of the Army in general. I think for the most part it involves NCO's and mid-level officers who trust them to do their job.

Our wounded deserve much better and hopefully this will start a change. You blog is very good and anyone who reads your blogs knows that you whole heartily support our Military and their mission.

This is not coming from people who have any desire to embarrass the military. It involves people who love and care for every single military person regardless of branch, ethnic background or religious preference.

I support the mission and the men and women who carry out the mission. I also support our President and hope he stays the course.

As regular readers know, I support our military people and only occasionally point out some absurdity... Sometimes I just choose not to post some things because I'm afraid that they will reflect back on my son or his unit...

I'm hoping the following are isolated instances, but since I publicized Noah receiving his Purple Heart, I have had a number of emails on the treatment our wounded soldiers receive from their own units once they returned.

Names and places have been removed since a number of these soldiers are still active duty...

I read the story on your blog about Noah finally receiving his Purple Heart. Like you, my son was... wounded while serving as a gunner on the lead security vehicle escorting a convoy in western Iraq in Al Anbar Province.

My son had emergency surgery at Balad, Iraq and was then sent to Landstuhl in Germany where he spent a week or so and then on to Walter Reed. We spent several weeks at Walter Reed with our son. It was a really great experience. The medical care was great and he was treated really well and we were also. He could have stayed at Walter Reed until he was medically retired but his unit wanted him back at ______. They promised to take care of him.

I can understand your disappointment about the Purple Heart Ceremony. Our son was awarded the Bronze Star a couple of weeks back. He was on a few days leave and was at home ... He was called by his unit on Saturday and told he needed to be back on Monday because General ______ was going to be presenting him with the Bronze Star Monday. We really wanted to be there, but the time constraints made it impossible. My wife's brother went with my son. He brought our video camera to film the ceremony. As it turned out, the ceremony was conducted by the docks were the [Division's] equipment was being unloaded; this was a restricted area and my wife's brother could not attend the ceremony so if we could have gone we would have been able to attend either.

I was just wondering if your son had any problems after he returned to his unit? My son's unit has been the only place he is not treated very well. My wife and I have been very disappointed with the way he has been treated since returning to [base]. He lost his right eye and has nerve damage in his back and right leg. After his leg had swollen up a couple of weeks ago he went to the emergency room in [base] and they discovered he had a torn ACL and torn quad and both will require surgery. Both happened when he was wounded by an IED a year ago in Iraq.

When his unit returned from Iraq... last year, we were going to go to the welcome home ceremony. Our son called a couple of weeks before his unit returned to tell us neither he nor the other wounded soldiers who were already back would be participating in the welcome home ceremony. They were going to have to guard their equipment at the airport or help unload duffel bags. The lucky wounded soldiers got to escort the family members of returning soldiers to their seats.

Let me give you a couple of examples of what I am talking about. His company commander just recently started a new policy. If you can't do PT you will not be granted any leave time. You are talking about wounded soldiers who will be disabled for the rest of their lives and there is no way they can do PT. They have sacrificed enough and should not be treated in this manner. My son had to be sent back to Walter Reed [in] Dec for another surgery on his eye and after the surgery he was put on 30 days convalescence leave. His company commander refused to let him come home while on convalescent leave. He was having a difficult time. He could not lift anything over 10 pounds until he healed from his surgery which made it very difficult for him. He could not get much help from anyone. This was during the Christmas season and we wanted him home so that we could take care of him while he was healing. I talked to the company commander and it did not do any good. I went up the chain of command, rear detachment, battalion, sergeant major, and then to the rear detachment commander and they would not over rule the company commander. After this, I went to my Senator... and it was not two hours and they decided he could come home, but of course he had to pay a price for this after he got back off leave.

We had a wonderful Christmas holiday -- maybe the best ever. It was great to have our son home and things are finally starting to get back to normal. It has been enough stress on us without having to worry about him being treated right at his unit. I hope this is an isolated incident but my son is telling me the other wounded soldiers from his unit are treated in the same manner.

My son has told me that the soldiers on medical hold at [base] had to do tasks for Rear-D... These men and women face an uncertain future with the disabilities that they acquired on the battlefield and they don't need to be degraded and treated like second class citizens as they struggle to get their lives back together.

The support our son has received from our local community has been outstanding. Our elected officials have been very supportive also, but if anyone should understand it should be those they serve with. I don't quite understand why this in going on.

I don't mind you doing a blind post just please don't use any names that can be traced back to my son. I have had to intervene a couple of times for my son and his unit did not take it well. Something needs to be done to insure that these men and women are treated at least equal with the other soldiers.

My son has decided that he is not going to have surgery on the ACL or the quad until he gets out. He was told that if he has the surgery now it will be a six month recovery and it will delay his medical retirement. He should get out in the next couple of months. He is going through the process now but it takes time.

It took my son a year to get the Bronze Star. He has not had an official ceremony for the Purple Heart [it was pinned to his pillow in the hospital in Balad] and I don't think it is going to happen. He thought he was going to receive both from General ______, but it was only the Bronze Star. A couple of other soldiers participating did get the Purple Heart pinned by General ______. I have attached a picture of the ceremony. You would think it could have happened at a much better location and with more fanfare than this. He was honored to get it nonetheless.

My son has several permenant injuries and like your son has profound hearing loss. He has to wear hearing aids in both ears. He is still adjusting to his limited vision. He is a little worried about getting a job when he gets out. He does not think many employers will want to hire someone with his disabilites, but I don't think he will have a problem. He should get a decent disability check and will still be able to work a job or go back to school.

My wife and I have talked about documenting our experience and send it to the Armed Service Committee of the Senate after he gets out. Maybe this will help future wounded soldiers who deserve better than they are getting.
Let me also say that [my son's] injuries were about the same as your son's. While they did require that he be returned home because of his limited mobility (which could have gotten himself or others killed), he has recovered -- only occasionally having flare ups of pain and, of course, his hearing will never be the same.

In my opinion, [our son] was treated "badly" when he returned to his unit -- although [our son] says that's just the way the Army works. First, they assigned him to the barracks that [his Division] had inhabited before they went to Iraq. The rooms had not been cleaned since the [unit] left nine months before. There was mold EVERYWHERE in the bathroom and shower. The rugs were covered in human waste and were so vile... there were bugs in the storage drawers under the bed. The mattress on the bed had every type of bodily fluid on it you can imagine. Since the supply officers/staff were in Iraq, he couldn't get bed linens unless he went to the OTHER side of the base -- and he had no transportation... so he laid the few pieces of Army clothing he had (which had been issued to him in Germany) on the mattress and was sleeping on those. He was told that the Rear Detachment was only responsible to get him to/from his medical appointments at the base hospital. He couldn't even get to the PX to get cleaning supplies. And he had 5 or 6 other soldiers living in the barracks -- all of them awaiting courts martial or dishonorable discharge!

A few weeks after he returned to [his base], he was assigned to the Rear Detachment. At first, they wanted him to go to the "field" detachment -- putting up fencing, mowing lawns, etc., but he spoke with his doctor who put the cabash on that since [our son] had head, neck and spinal injuries and lifting and hard labor was out of the question. There were days he could hardly walk! From his descriptions, it sounded like the Rear Detachment people were angry with our son for getting wounded... like it was his fault and they resented him for that!

I was extremely angry that anyone would even suggest that this was how we "rewarded" our wounded. So they gave him a desk job. When he was put on administrative duty, he was the one that worked every weekend and holiday because he didn't have any family there at [the base]. This included Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks when everyone else got time off (10 days at Christmas!) The only guys left at Rear-D were [our son] and two other wounded soldiers (and, of course, the people who lived at/near [the base] -- and they only occasionally worked 1/2 days so that they didn't get charged with any "time off".)

When he got his 30 day convalescent leave when he returned to [the base], they told him it was completely separate from the "end of tour" leave the [Division] had earned and would get, so he took the leave and came to visit his family because he just needed to be 20 years old again. He planned to do a "road trip" with his buddies once the rest of his unit got back from Iraq. Low and behold, when it came time for the end of tour leave, [our son] was told at the very last minute that he had to stay behind and man the Rear-D while everyone else went off. Although he was fit to return to his unit when it returned from Iraq, they kept him in the Rear D for a number of months so that everyone else could take their leave. He just recently returned to his unit. Our son isn't bothered so much by this as his father and I are... he says that's just the way the Army works.

[After he was injured by an IED in Iraq] [my son] was in Germany for 4 days and then at WR for 2 weeks. They were very good at WR, kept me very informed of what was going on with him, but of course I was sitting there day in & day out in his room so they almost had to *L* He's doing very well now, he is at [base] on Med Hold and anticipating a medical discharge. His unit just returned home from Iraq... & they're all at [base], but will probably move, he'll stay there because of the med hold.

My experience with the medical community is that they are slow to do anything. While we were at WR they were wonderful and I'm still getting calls from there, people checking up on [son], but at [base] they are slow and I'm not sure if that's how it is for everyone or if my [son] just doesn't push them. He's been there since December... 2 weeks ago they finally started physical therapy for his shoulder which was hurt in S. Korea, 2 months before he went to Iraq.

And just last week saw an orthopedic doc for the wounds received in his shoulder/shoulder blade in Iraq. He has had a floating rib and has yet to see a specialist for that, the day he had an appt. they called and cancelled his appt. and told him that the Doc was going to be gone for 4 months and he'd have to wait till the doc got back. So he has never seen anyone for that rib. I'm pretty sure there are more specialists in [that state] than just the one, so I'm not understanding the wait.

Also they are very quick to prescribe. [Son] has been diagnosed with PTSD, which 95% of the wounded there with him have also been diagnosed with. When I visited him in March I was shocked at the pill bottles lining his desk: morphine, anti-depressants, anti-psycotics, take 4 a day, take 2 a day, blah blah blah. He doesn't take all of them, but he has some buddies there that have od'd on them because they live in the barracks and there is no one really keeping an eye on them with all of this medication. It's very frightening to me. It seems like they're not treating the PTSD, but just giving drugs. So when he gets home, then what? I sure don't know.

As I said, [my son's] treatment might be just because he doesn't push. And with him being an "adult" Mom can't call and get any info from the docs or demand that things get done. I don't want to scare you, wherever Noah ends up is going to be different, I'm sure. I think the best thing he can do is to be very proactive in his treatment, the squeeky wheel gets the grease type of thing. [My son] is not a very aggressive person so he gets left behind I think.

I would advise when Noah gets his medical records to make several copies, keep some at home and send some with him. Those records have a way of getting lost when given to the COs for some reason. Also, I don't know if Noah will be eligible for a medical discharge, but the paper work he fills out for that should be copied; they've lost [son's] twice now and luckily he had made copies before he turned them in the first time. I think all of this is due to his commanding officer, not medical personnel. They have a very poor CO there, who seems to resent the boys who are wounded for some reason...

As soon as [son] gets his discharge and can't get into trouble I am calling his CO and telling him how I feel about his treatment of these guys & it's not going to be pretty *L*

Well, I have written a book here & I hope I have not discouraged you. I think it all depends on where these boys end up for their rehab & treatment. I really don't think that [son's base] was equipped to work with these boys and are doing the best they can. Just make sure that Noah is very involved with his treatment, I think that's the key.

Thanks so much for responding and asking about [son]. It's been almost a year since he was wounded, but it still stops my heart when I think about almost losing him, like it just happened yesterday. I hope I've been some help here & please feel free to write anytime and ask anything, I'll be as helpful as I can be.

I hope these are truly isolated incidents... If people prefer not to leave incidents in the comments and/or to have the incident reported completely anonymously, you can email me (see my profile).

Copyright Some Soldier's Mom 2006. All rights reserved.


At 5/16/2006 10:59 AM , Blogger Some Soldier's Mom said...

The country should not be ashamed... By enlarge, our wounded are treated with the respect and honor that they have earned (I know... my son was one of the wounded). I truly believe that these are isolated incidents and I hope it will make a few COs and NCOs take a look at themselves and, if they see themselves in these stories, will do better next time.

At 5/16/2006 11:22 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know...that CO needs his name published, and his career put to an end.


At 5/16/2006 11:45 AM , Blogger Barb said...

Those stories are terrible, and I think reflect on the units commander and NCO's very poorly. I only have one data point to offer, as I was invited by my co-worker to attend a troop appreciation day. This was a great event for the troops to get the recognition of the WA NG commanders, and also for them to recognize the family and friends who supported them. (It choked me up completely to be put on his short list of supporters)
One man in the unit had been killed, and his mother was treated with reverence and respect by all present, and singled out so all of us could recognize her as well. Another man in the unit had been very badly injured during their deployment, he is no longer in the Guard due to his injuries, but he was also singled out and honored during the ceremony.
Of course, the guard is a different critter than the active duty units - but I felt proud of the honor shown to all our guys that day.

At 5/18/2006 4:02 AM , Blogger Call Me Grandma said...

Good post Mom. The army is like any other organization. It does have it's flaws. Pointing them out is the only way to get them known.
I also hold back on lot of my opinions because I do not want them to have a negative impact on my son or my country, which both are at war.
My time will come though.

At 5/18/2006 8:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the CO is anything like mine....Well

Anyways Thanks for your support and prayers

At 8/17/2007 12:20 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

It is sad to say, but these incidents don't seem to be the few and far between. Three man in my husband's squad, including my husband, were seriously injured while serving in Afghanistan. Since home, they have been slaves to our Rear Detachment, doing physical work even though they are on medical profiles. On top of that, they (Rear D) will not grat my husband his con leave saying that issuing con leave is at "their discretion". I have far too many complaints to write out a formal story at this time. My heart goes out to all who are having to deal with what we are dealing with.


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