What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 20, 2007

How The Bush Administration Supports The Troops - Part II

Here's the other part of the story from the Washington Post.

Read it if you have the stomach for it.

Especially this:

Dell McLeod's injury was utterly banal. He was in his 10th month of deployment with the 178th Field Artillery Regiment of the South Carolina National Guard near the Iraqi border when he was smashed in the head by a steel cargo door of an 18-wheeler. The hinges of the door had been tied together with a plastic hamburger-bun bag. Dell was knocked out cold and cracked several vertebrae.

When Annette learned that he was being shipped to Walter Reed, she took a leave from her job on the assembly line at Stanley Tools and packed the car. The Army would pay her $64 a day to help care for her husband and would let her live with him at Mologne House until he recovered.

A year later, they are still camped out in the twilight zone. Dogs are periodically brought in by the Army to search the rooms for contraband or weapons. When the fire alarm goes off, the amputees who live on the upper floors are scooped up and carried down the stairwell, while a brigade of mothers passes down the wheelchairs.

One morning Annette opens her door and is told to stay in the room because a soldier down the hall has overdosed.

In between, there are picnics at the home of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a charity-funded dinner cruise on the Potomac for "Today's troops, tomorrow's veterans, always heroes."

Dell and Annette's weekdays are spent making the rounds of medical appointments, physical therapy sessions and evaluations for Dell's discharge from the Army. After 19 years, he is no longer fit for service. He uses a cane to walk. He is unable to count out change in the hospital cafeteria. He takes four Percocets a day for pain and has gained 40 pounds from medication and inactivity. Lumbering and blue-eyed, Dell is a big ox baby.

Annette puts on makeup every morning and does her hair, some semblance of normalcy, but her new job in life is watching Dell.

"I'm worried about how he's gonna fit into society," she says one night, as Dell wanders down the hall to the laundry room.

The more immediate worry concerns his disability rating. Army doctors are disputing that Dell's head injury was the cause of his mental impairment. One report says that he was slow in high school and that his cognitive problems could be linked to his native intelligence rather than to his injury.

"They said, 'Well, he was in Title I math,' like he was retarded," Annette says. "Well, y'all took him, didn't you?"

The same fight is being waged by their friends, who aren't the young warriors in Army posters but middle-age men who left factory jobs to deploy to Iraq with their Guard units. They were fit enough for war, but now they are facing teams of Army doctors scrutinizing their injuries for signs of preexisting conditions, lessening their chance for disability benefits.

Dell and Annette's closest friend at Mologne House is a 47-year-old Guard member who was driving an Army vehicle through the Iraqi night when a flash of light blinded him and he crashed into a ditch with an eight-foot drop. Among his many injuries was a broken foot that didn't heal properly. Army doctors decided that "late life atrophy" was responsible for the foot, not the truck wreck in Iraq.

And this:

Perks and stardom do not come to every amputee. Sgt. David Thomas, a gunner with the Tennessee National Guard, spent his first three months at Walter Reed with no decent clothes; medics in Samarra had cut off his uniform. Heavily drugged, missing one leg and suffering from traumatic brain injury, David, 42, was finally told by a physical therapist to go to the Red Cross office, where he was given a T-shirt and sweat pants. He was awarded a Purple Heart but had no underwear.

David tangled with Walter Reed's image machine when he wanted to attend a ceremony for a fellow amputee, a Mexican national who was being granted U.S. citizenship by President Bush. A case worker quizzed him about what he would wear. It was summer, so David said shorts. The case manager said the media would be there and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row.

" 'Are you telling me that I can't go to the ceremony 'cause I'm an amputee?' " David recalled asking. "She said, 'No, I'm saying you need to wear pants.' "

David told the case worker, "I'm not ashamed of what I did, and y'all shouldn't be neither." When the guest list came out for the ceremony, his name was not on it.

I don't want to hear any more how this president supports the troops. If he'd allowed his Pentagon to abuse to just one soldier, any credibility he has on that front is gone gone gone. Read the article, there are more soldiers abuse, more humiliations at Walter Reed.

Disgsting, disgraceful. And all on George Bush's watch.


Schmuck Shitrock said...

This administration cares about the troops the way you and I care about toilet paper. We want it to be there when we need it. We use it to manage our shit. We discard it and never think about it until we need it again.

Sherry said...

yeah, pretty much. ugly way to words but it's an ugly thing they are doing.

Sherry said...

altho i will say, the medical care and rehab, staff etc. are excellent.

they are doing their jobs with skill and care.

Richmond K. Turner said...

While I agree with your overall point, this particular example does not really demonstrate that injured troops are being needlessly abused by the military medical system. I, unlike many, have served my time in the military. And troops will do some astonishing shit to get themselves out of a deployment. I had one kid whose wife intentionally dropped a bowling ball off the steps and onto his foot the night before we were to deploy for Desert Strom.

The soldier that is described in your quote from the Washington Post is probably a legitimate casualty. Then again, we don't really know the specifics here and the press does tend to ignore elements of some stories when it suits their purposes. Even if he didn't bring this on himself, the point is that there are hundreds of others who have.

As a taxpayer, I want to spend tons of money to support injured vets. But I'm not so into spending money on those whose injuries were self-inflicted and done to get out of combat duty. So I like it that the military is looking at things like this with a skeptical eye. It sucks in so many ways, but that's the reality of what they have to deal with.

Sherry said...

try to catch the rerun of a story that was on countdown. they were inside the building in question with a film crew and did interviews with amputees there.

by the way. since this came up, they are in a panic to correct the conditions.

i doubt if all of those vets in that building with limbs missing caused those injuries to themselves.

EdHeath said...

You know, coming at this from another direction, it seems like the government has spent huge amounts of money on this war. I know it takes huge amounts to keep a hundred and fifty thousand troops in Iraq, but still, you gotta wonder. I remember reading about how the administration was putting political appointees all over the place in government, in place of professional bureaucrats. I think the story was in the context of the administration’s position on science, but I begin to wonder who is working over in the Pentagon. You never thought you would prefer professional bureaucrats. I know they are also privatizing where they can, which doesn’t make me feel any better. I hope Congress gets down to brass tacks soon, and starts to look for all the money that has been supposed to be spent on this war. Maybe there will be some fire sales on private jets and mansions, and a few dollars can actually be routed to troops that need it.