The Government Turns Its Back on Iraq Veterans
I am a military veteran of the Iraq War. I went into the war zone in November of 2003, eight months after the war started. After my tour in Iraq was over, I came back with bad memories and a bad back. It took time for me to try to forget about the bad memories and I still think about those events from time to time. With my bad back, it would take ten months of procedures and surgery to fix me up again. This included the day I first herniated a disc in my back, then getting misdiagnosed by the army and then spend most of the day on a hardwood floor lying on a heating pad. Although getting through the VA system was quick and I did get the necessary surgery to fix my bad back, there are soldiers whose injuries are worse than mine who have to wait long periods of time to be properly treated because the U.S. government was unprepared for all the injured soldiers that were coming home.
Government officials expected there would be casualties when we wage war in Iraq, but what those officials did not realize was that there would be a backlog of wounded soldiers coming back with severe injuries to their bodies. Since Vietnam, combat hospitals are cleaner and technologically more advance to care for wounded soldiers, and the training for emergency medical care in combat has improved so much that the survival rates are higher than ever. During the Vietnam War the ratio of wounded to dead was two to one, but over time that increase to sixteen to one as the current statistic for the Iraq War that is currently happening. That is a high survival rate compared to the fact that roadside and car bombs were becoming bigger as the war is entering into years. For those soldiers who were fortunate enough to survive these bombs and ambushes that tears away at their bodies. These soldiers did not realize the problems and the mental toll they were about to encounter when they would come home to a different country that they had left behind just one year prior.
As the wounded were coming home, so were the problems, they included understaffed hospitals, poor hospital conditions and the lack of money for soldiers who were physically disabled in combat. Thus the reason why soldiers who are coming home are waiting weeks to months to be properly taken care of by the government. These problems presented themselves as the best military hospital in the country, Walter Reed Hospital, came under fire for the conditions many soldiers were living in while being treated there. When asked why this was happening, officials kept on making excuses and saying they would let the Senate know once the military officials found out what was happening at the hospital. They were quickly to act by making the construction crews work overtime to get the hospital up to standards by patching up walls, replacing old wiring, and getting rid of the cockroaches that were infesting many rooms in the hospital. Yet in September, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported the lack of improvement since then.
Even though the hospital conditions are improving, the staffing situation and getting soldiers through the system has not improved. Either soldiers have to fight the system to get what they need, which many have, or others have given up the fight and ended their own lives. To think the government would have kept on letting this happen to their soldiers if the media outlets did not get these stories out. The government does not know how soldiers and their families are affected when their sons and daughters are disabled, seriously wounded or even killed. To show their appreciation, the government gives these wounded veterans enough money to cover the necessities, but not enough to cover the medical costs that these soldiers have to pay for the rest of their lives.
I was glad that I join the Army; it improved my life, I was working, getting paid and receiving money for school. Nevertheless, if I heard about what was going on now, I would not join the Army today, because of how badly soldiers are being treated in the medical sector. I am also glad that I had a simple back problem because I would not know what would happen if I was in worse shape like the thousands of soldiers who come home are.
So where do we military veterans from here? Well it all depends on how much longer the United States stays in Iraq, because next year President Bush is out of the office, and so the next President will make the most important decision that will dictate the rest of his or her presidency. Regardless of who the next president is, he or she will have the hardest presidency since Lincoln to clean up eight years of political hell brought by one man and his yes men. However, the most important questions need to have an answer because these “I do not knows” and “we are looking into it” are not cutting it anymore. Regardless if they do get answered, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars will have a hard and long road ahead of them as they get older, and their bodies will not wait either as these government officials are debating if they should give more money to care for our wounded.