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Wounded Soldiers Deserves Better Treatment
Walter Reid Army Medical Center
Neglecting America’s Best
Five miles from the White House is a building the locals know as Building 18. It’s a huge complex which sets on 113 acres of prime real estate on the outskirts of WashingtonDC. Authorized for construction by Congressional legislation it accepted its first ten occupants in 1909. The architect for this magnificent structure was Lt. Col William Cline Borden who initiated the dream, selected the location, and fought for congressional approval and because of his unwavering efforts the building received the official name “Borden’s Dream.” In 1923 it was renamed the Army Medical Center (AMC). The building would later be given the prefix name after a physician who confirmed that yellow fever was transmitted by mosquitos rather than direct contact, as originally reported by the medical establishment. This physician was Major Walter Reid (1851-1902). Today, building 1 is officially named and recognized worldwide as the Walter Reid Army Medical Center (WRAMC).
The WRAMC currently serves more than 150,000 active and retired personnel from all branches of the military. Since its origins, WRAMC has grown from an 80 bed capacity to approximately 5,500 beds covering more than 28 acres of floor space. In 2011, WRAMC will combine its resources with the BethesdaNavalHospital to form what will be called the Walter Reid National Military Center (WRNMC). Perhaps this coop with the US Naval facility will allow WRAMC to regain its prominence as the premier medical facility for military personnel returning from combat zones or retired military personnel receiving medical treatment from previous battles. Since the death of Dwight D Eisenhower on March 28, 1969, the WRAMC has been declining in reputation as a top notch medical facility and in early 2007 the building was exposed as a physically decaying facility. Soldiers reported standing in their showers and seeing the bathtub of the shower above them through rotting holes in the ceiling. According to confirmed news report, the entire building, constructed between the world wars to serve military personnel, often smells like greasy carry-out food often causing nauseating symptoms among the occupants. Pentagon findings confirmed neglect throughout the facilities to include mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses, and mold in various locations.
This has become the new reputation of Building 18. Not the kind of place a wounded soldier expects when he/she arrives there. In 2007 Secretary Gates visited the facility and promised major repairs, mostly cosmetic. Despite major upgrades Building 18 still serve hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and in rare cases, The Korean War.
I joined the Army in 1975 and retired in 2001. During my enlistment I worked in multiple areas including communications, personnel, administration, Psychological Operations and Infantry, to name a few. My last 13 years was served as a Drill Sergeant training new recruits to be the best soldiers in the world, a job I took great pride in and one that I truly enjoyed. The information about the WalterReidArmyMedicalCenter struck me to the core of absolute disgust. Recruiters practically stalk young men and women to join the military. They promise sign-up bonuses of anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 and more. The most recent stalking technique by the Army promises an additional $40,000 to recruits to start their own business, after their enlistment term is up. While the latter is an excellent effort to assist the soldier, and the economy it falls far short of any real significant alternative to medical neglect. What good is the money if the soldier comes home wounded and is refused adequate medical treatment? What good is $40,000 if the soldier is suffering from PSTD without adequate treatment? What good is the money if the soldier has to prove that his/her injuries were war related. What good is the money if there are no rehabilitation programs to re-orient the soldier to a civilian society. Soldiers need the money for certain however what they need most is adequate care because no one experience war and come back the same. Why does a soldier have to wait an unspecified of time before receiving medical benefits. Statistics suggests that the suicide rate increases during the waiting period. I personally have friends from the Vietnam War who just received their first treatment and disability pay in 2005 – 37 years later. Unfortunately my brother died before his benefits were awarded.
It would be honorable to our young men and women, and often middle-aged men and women if the military would fight for adequate medical care and benefitst with the same fever used to recruit these men and women. It would be honorable if our government would pay these men and women competitive salaries that are equal to or greater than congressional members. It would be honorable for our government, our senators, our congress members, governors, mayors, and the President of The United States to give more than lip service to the welfare of the family members of those who serve. Divorce rate among service members are approximately 3.6% which exceeds the national average by a full percentage point. One can argue that these men and women knew what they were getting into and therefore deserve whatever they get. Yes, they knew what they were getting into and that’s why they joined. They knew they were getting into an organization where the risks are very high. They knew they were joining an organization that would take them away from their families. They also knew they were getting into an organization which would protect the freedoms of the country they love dearly and they were willing to give their lives to guarantee those freedoms. This statement sounds a bit corny to some and commercial to others but if you’ve ever served in the military uniform you take the oath seriously and these words become a part of your commitment DNA.
I could go on and on about the mistreatment of our men and women in the military uniform, backed by statistical data supplied by creditable government and independent agencies. This article could easily exceed 100 pages however, I will close by saying this……..Whether you support the wars or not, our men and women in uniform deserve the highest respect, the highest recognition, and the highest gratitude. Treatment at the WalterReidArmyMedicalCenter in my opinion is the lowest form of appreciation. It basically says to the soldier……..”Thank you for your service but since you’re no longer useful to us we’re going to put you at the WRAMC because quite frankly your medical issues are your problem and we really don’t give a damn – we’ll call you when we feel like dealing with you!”
Civilian hospitals operate with a lot less resources than the government has. Civilian hospitals have top medical facilities and medical personnel so I know WRAMC can do much better. Housing America’s best in such a facility while paying rogues governments over thirty billion dollars a day is the greatest insult. It would appear that we take better care of our enemies than we do those trained to protect us.
Thank a soldier today and let them know you care!