Saturday, February 24, 2007

Walter Reed Army Medical Center is HELL!!!

Walter Reed Is a Second Hell for Injured Vets

By Brady van Engelen, HuffingtonPost.com
Posted on February 23, 2007

I served in Iraq and survived being shot in the head.

I came back to Walter Reed and survived a different kind of hell.

The Washington Post's articles exposing the conditions of Walter Reed Army Medical Center has prompted much media attention. The attention is refreshing for those of us who have long been appalled by this neglect and betrayal by the government.

After I was shot, I was no longer of any use to the U.S. Military, and they made that very apparent. The conditions I witnessed during my eight months at Walter Reed, when I lived in Building 38, which is comparable to the now-infamous Building 18, made it clear that the care I had been guaranteed in return for my sacrifice was an empty promise.

Our wars have been void of any political accountability and -- as usual -- media attention has not prompted any meaningful political action. It has been announced that there will be "investigations" into conditions at Walter Reed. This is insulting. Anything short of calling for the immediate resignation of those responsible for this care is insulting.

I am tired of our President, his Cabinet, and Members of Congress ducking accountability and proposing hollow legislation that does nothing to affect the status quo.

Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow announced that it was up to those who "work on the other side of the river" to get the bottom of the mess at Walter Reed -- Excuse me? I served in Iraq at the orders of the President -- my Commander in Chief. I will not sit by and allow our President and his Press Secretary to punt responsibility over to the Pentagon when the pressure begins to mount. It is the responsibility of the Commander in Chief to ensure that we are properly cared for before we fight, as we fight, and when we come home.

Walter Reed has been the quintessential campaign stop/photo-op for countless elected officials since the start of our most wars. They have already seen this first hand and have chosen to ignore it.

Congress also needs a reality check. The solutions offered to date have been nothing more than hollow, quick fixes.

The system we have in place is broken.

We cannot fix this system by simply throwing money at it. Instead, we need to completely overhaul the existing, antiquated programs that ignore the specific needs of our newest generation of veterans.

A system designed for World War II veterans or a 19-year-old GI can never be sufficiently adequate or comprehensive to meet the needs of a 33-year-old guardsman or any of the 16,000 single mothers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are extremely violent, and it is certain that more of us will return home with irrevocable physical and mental injuries.

Less 0.5% of the US population has served in Iraq and Afghanistan -- we represent too small a portion of the US population to fight for change alone. The American public needs to step up. They have indicated their discontent for the war in Iraq and now it's time for them to make clear their disgust with the way America treats service members.

Brady Van Engelen is an Iraq war veteran, and is currently the Associate Director at Veterans for America.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/48369/

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