Five Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty Nine. That’s the number of men and women from our nation’s armed forces who left for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and did not return alive. You can find more on these brave men and women here: Honor the Fallen. Yet that is only one part of the number of those who have sacrificed greatly for our freedoms.
Over the course of the last year, my Army Reserve Battalion deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn. The battalion operated in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan and we suffered one fatal casualty, SGT Kurt Kruize.
My unit is now home, they have received their DD214’s and reintegrated into civilian life. They have hugged their families, relearned the joy that is alcohol, and are dealing with all the issues that come with a sudden change from military to civilian life. However…
I am not home. Just before the unit left, something happened to me and I awoke in a hospital in Kuwait, was medevaced to Germany, and then brought to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Riley. Let me be clear, although my condition is serious and likely related to previous combat, the incident that placed me in the hospital was not itself combat related. Along the way, I have met many of my fellow “Wounded Warriors”, the Army term for people it broke in the sandbox and then brought back here to get fixed. They suffer from many varied conditions: severe PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injuries, broken arms, broken legs, broken backs, and more. Some need time to heal, some will never be completely right again.
This isn’t a post about me, it is about the thousands of Service Members who are dealing with wounds, some visible, some invisible, that they have suffered in the course of defending freedom. Frequently I post here at Redstate about the importance of not forgetting the hundreds of thousands of troops still in harm’s way in two wars on the other side of the world. Today I post about not forgetting the thousands of troops who will have months, years, perhaps the rest of their lives spent recovering from the wounds that could have, but didn’t make them part of the 5839.
The Wounded Warrior Project has long been one of my favorite organizations. When Soldiers get on cold medevac flights in Germany with little but the clothes they were wearing when they were sent, they also have a blanket, a hat, an UnderArmor jacket and an airplane pillow supplied by the Wounded Warrior Project. When Soldiers get to a Military Treatment Facility here in the states, the Wounded Warrior Project provides them with WWP’s, a backpack containing assorted clothing a Soldier can use.
So that you will know more of what it is like to be in this situation I will give you a brief tour. One minute, you are doing your job, inside or outside the wire, on day just like all the rest. The next thing you know, you find yourself in a Combat Support Hospital(CSH). If you are lucky, your uniform has not been destroyed either by the incident or by the medical team trying to stabilize you. You may be in a great amount of pain, or as I was, you may be so full of medicine that your only real memories of this time are those relayed to you by others. You have little to none of your gear. Luckily, before I was air evaced to Germany, my Soldiers were able to get me a bag containing some of my things. Many troops do not get that. After some time in the CSH, depending on the severity of your injury, you are flown to Germany, where you are evaluated and care truly begins. If you are stable and well enough to travel, they send you to the States and place you in a Warrior Transition Unit. In a warrior transition unit, your care is managed and the Army begins to decide what the future holds for you. For some, this means a medical board to medically retire, some stay in the WTU for months or years while they are treated, some are returned to duty, some are released from active duty to seek care from civilian doctors. This is a very scary time for many, dealing with injuries, spending time in 5, 10 or more beds in a couple of weeks, being away from family and friends and away from the unit of brothers and sisters in arms that they are so closely bonded to.
Unless you have experienced this, you cannot understand, but hopefully you all now have a better idea. We often hear the media joyfully quote the number of those lost in these conflicts, but we rarely hear about the fates of those who come home broken. If you want to help, contact the Wounded Warrior Project. Remember to pray for the families of those lost, and pray for the recovery of those whose commitment to your freedom has left them less than when they left.
I will be returning home soon to receive further care from civilian doctors. I am one of those lucky enough to spend Christmas this year with my family. My condition makes it unlikely that I will return to posting regularly for a while, but I will be here at times and I am always thankful for the work that you all do to maintain freedom in the greatest country on earth. While my brothers and sisters in the military defend us from those who would take our freedoms from the outside, you all defend us against those who would take them on the inside.
God bless America.