For some…the war will go on forever

distributorcap NY

There is absolutely nothing pretty or honorable about the war in Iraq. It was started for immoral and bogus reasons and continues to be fought for immoral, bogus and pathetic reasons. Despite what you hear from the insulated press, the surge is not working – violence might be down, but even one American soldier or innocent Iraqi death is too many to call this a success. Besides, the whole “stated” intention of the surge was to get the political process in motion – show us any semblance of that happening. In reality, the purpose of the surge was to dump this problem off on the 44th President.

George Bush’s ugly war has a very different kind of battle being fought well beyond the borders of Iraq and Afghanistan. This battle is an endless one and well beyond the sight line of anyone from the Bush administration.

One of the most depressing and insidious sides of this (or any) war has been the role thousands of families must take when their child comes home injured from Iraq. Soldiers – often young and unmarried, have turned to their parents for emotional, financial, medical and logistical support. And for these parents, it has meant delaying retirement, working overtime or extra jobs, moving to another city, putting off any expenses, dealing with the governmental bureaucracy and completely re-arranging their entire lives as they are forced into the role of long-term care takers. It is estimated that over 10,000 Iraq veterans are now dependent on their parents for care. This is heartbreaking to the nth degree.

In previous conflicts, many of the injuries sustained in Iraq would have been fatal. Army physician Dr. Ronald Glasser called this “a war of disability, not a war of deaths” in his book Wounded: Vietnam to Iraq. Better equipment and armor has saved lives, but so have the improvements in battlefield therapies and the ability to quickly move the injured to well-staffed hospitals. In Iraq, there are 6 deaths for every 100 injuries. In Vietnam that number was 28 out of 100, in World War II it was 38. Modern medicine and transport has been a godsend.

While this statistic is terrific and rousing, there is a flip side to it. Many of the injuries that the wounded now survive are so extensive and so precarious, they require full time and complex care. Those infamous IEDs are so powerful virtually anyone caught in an explosive wave is going have dramatic and critical injuries. In addition to the physical injuries (estimated at up to 300,000), there are thousands of cases of PTSD, depression and other mentally debilitating illnesses. Military screeners estimate up to 40% of returning soldiers have some sort of psychological symptoms that need treatment.

With so many soldiers in there early 20’s, parents have become nurse, doctor and psychiatrist to their injured child – dressing wounds, changing tracheotomy tubes, injecting medication, and dealing with depression. They are physical therapist, social worker, advocate and parent all at once. Many of these parents were retired – but now they have to take on a new and more critical full time job. They are the heroes to those that have put their lives on the line (whether you believe in this war or not) for this country. And often they are forgotten, ignored or worse – treated with disdain by the government and VA.

This new adjustment in their lives comes at an enormous cost – emotionally, mentally and financially. Travel is often not covered, neither are hotels and all the little expenses necessary to make the injured comfortable. In some cases the Army wants to pass responsibility onto the Veteran’s Administration – which means a whole new set of rules and regulations. Despite the horrible press from Walter Reed a few years back, the hospital is still known for some top-notch treatment of war-related injuries. Expensive and over-crowded, the Army cannot keep all patients at Walter Reed and will often opt for early discharge. Parents learn to navigate the bureaucracy and nab politicians as they come in for their photo-ops as part of the treatment for their war-injured child. Without their parents’ constant haranguing, many of the maimed would fall through the cracks end up like the neglected at Walter Reed.

Care can be substandard and pitiful – typical of many (but I emphasize not ALL) government operations. Nurses have been known to ignore some of the more severely injured, while many physicians are over-loaded to the breaking point. Appointments can take months. Some patients are mistreated. Parents have to be vigilant about the care their children are receiving – that tests are completed, medications are doled out, food is served, sheets are cleaned, and treatment is complete and apropos. In short, the parents become the doctor, lawyer and Indian chief. Dealing with the VA (aka “veterans adversary”) is often the worst part of the recovery. With staff and time in short supply – the VA will outsource some of the care to civilian hospitals. Now another whole bureaucracy enters the picture.

Imagine seeing your child go off to Iraq and come back injured, and now have to deal with this? The anger must be overwhelming.

What happens when a veteran doesn’t have a family? Or their families turn their backs? What happens if a severely injured vet outlives his parents? What about the families that do not have the financial or emotional wherewithal to deal with this trauma? And what will ensure that returning Iraqi veterans receive proper, complete and comprehensive treatment for ALL their illnesses – physical and mental. This is one of the most alarming, ominous and depressing sides of this war we DO NOT talk about or report about in the media. War is ugly, but this treatment is wretched and disturbing.

This has been a war with no flag-draped coffins, no sacrifice from those on the home front, and no public view of anything that tarnishes the marketing. It has been George Bush’s ugly war for George Bush’s maniacal and grandiose ego. For the rest of us – “let them eat cake or schrapnel – and let some one else clean up the crumbs.” This is a side of the war that will not end, even when the last troop does come home.

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~ by distributorcap on June 4, 2008.

16 Responses to “For some…the war will go on forever”

  1. I have a relative who works for the VA. They try to help the injured vets, but they don’t have the funds to really address PTSD. First, the catastrophic injuries get precedence. Second, they don’t have enough therapists and the ones they have are getting burned out. Just sad. This relative told me about one young man who came back with a brain injury. Not a scratch on him, but something hit his helmet and shock his brain around. He is effectively catatonic and because he is otherwise physically fit, he will likely live a long time. In a nursing home. Because he needs 24/7 care. Just appalling.

  2. The commenter, and you in your post, address the issue of brain injuries. That’s one of the factors leading to the increase in reported PTSD and mental illness issues for returning vets. The nature of IED explosions contributes to relatively higher rates of brain injury even in soldiers who are otherwise not seriously injured.

    It’s all a damnable shame. It truly is.

  3. Jesus. I had not considered the age of the wounded soldier would dictate the parents be the sole source of care, nor that the number is way higher than 10,000.

  4. When Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes came forth with their astonishing estimate of $3 trillion for the total cost of the War on Terror, perpetual vet care was of course a huge chunk of the pie. I recently heard the sum put in a perspective that really riled me: If you gave someone $3 trillion and told them to spend $100 million each day and not to return until the money was gone, you would not see them again for over 80 years. Not to diminish their plight, but that puts it way beyond just the vets and the military and lands it square in the lap of the next two or three generations. Disgusting is the proper word.

  5. We’ve been in the mode of feeding the beast of the war machine for a long time.. there were lies about the capability of the Russians during the Cold War too. It’s total insanity which has only gotten worse thse last eight years. Excellent post.

  6. I live 5 blocks from the VA in Denver. I see more and more of the injured every week as they start to leave that hospital and move about town.

    Soon it will be like the early 80’s where you’d see tons of homeless Viet Name era vets.

  7. Great post, DCap–I hadn’t even considered parents having to care for their wounded kids, and how that would affect their financial lives as well as their emotional lives. Man. Imagine what those poor soldiers, who are already riddled with physical and emotional injuries, must feel when they watch their parents give up their retirements to care for them. What a horror, especially in this “the greatest country in the world” according to these same government assholes who are cutting VA funding.

  8. I remember when Nelvin came home. He left a leg, most of one arm,some fingers from his other hand and a lot of his face in the Central Highlands.
    Six years in VA hospitals. and twenty four more wondering what the rest of Nelvin was going to do with the rest of Nelvin’s life.
    He did not wake up one morning. Just did not wake up.
    At his funeral his mother told me that he really died in Viet Nam. It just took him thirty years to realize it.

    This is a great post. But it has really fucked up my day.

  9. We must win in Iraq. If we withdraw, there will be chaos; there will be genocide; and they will follow us home.
    John McCain

    We should declare war on North Vietnam. . . .We could pave the whole country and put parking strips on it, and still be home by Christmas.
    –Ronald Reagan, 1965

    “Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam.”

    Martin Luther King

  10. okjimm- thanks for the wonderful quotes. The 2nd one will come in handy next time someone tells me what a genius Reagan was!

  11. Right now I’m reading a book set during WWI. How sad that we’ve learned so little since then about the damages of war. The only reason we’re at the top of the food chain is because we (humans) have figured out how to devise the best methods for killing and maiming. It’s obviously not because we’re smarter.

  12. thanks for all your comments and quotes… it is amazing that we havent learned — that war is a sport we cheer on — and that we have the RIGHT to tell other people how to govern their lives. and that we let a complete douchebag/asshole/dickweed/creep like george bush decide how the world should be

    and the price we pay for letting it happen — injured, maimed, dead, broken families, broken lives

    this was a tough post to write and i thank you all for reading

  13. D-cap- Until we actually do something this perpetual cycle of war, power tools and wrestling will continue. We need real radical change.
    aw fuck it.
    I was born here (America) and I shamelessly admit a part of me that was/is thoroughly nutured by all of our great imagery loves to fight…bred to fight.
    you are soooo right…we cheer for bloodsport.

  14. Otto Dix….. the Skat Players

  15. Well stated, and of course, as long as this administration keeps everything quiet, a majority of the masses will never step aside long enough from the rhetoric to understand the reality of this very sad situation bush and co have taken this country and Iraqs into!

    ; (

  16. Oh, they signed up, they were volunteers. It’s very romantic and swashbuckly.

    The free market and the power of the American dollar will solve these problems, wait and see.

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