FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Soldiers in a recovery unit for wounded troops at Fort Bragg told the Secretary of the Army that they feel forgotten by the military and that combat duty would be better than the treatment they get now, according to a memo obtained by the Associated Press.
The memo summarized the comments of soldiers who attended a closed-door meeting last week with Army Secretary Pete Geren. It was held after the service said it would look into complaints of overzealous discipline reported by The Associated Press.
Some of the soldiers told Geren they have "feelings of worthlessness and abandonment," the memo states. They told Geren that low morale and suicides in the base's Warrior Transition battalion are "pushed by (a) negative command climate" that is enforced by the unit's squad leaders.
"If I had been in the (unit) after I was wounded the first time, I would not have fought so hard to stay in," one soldier told Geren, according to the memo. "It is very demoralizing and a very different experience from my previous recuperation."
The Army set up its 35 Warrior Transition units two years ago to help soldiers navigate the medical system and monitor their progress and treatment following the scandal over shoddy conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
But a recent Associated Press investigation found that discipline rates vary widely across the system. The comments to Geren mirror those of a dozen current and former soldiers interviewed by the AP about their time in Fort Bragg's unit. They accused the unit's officers of being indifferent to their medical needs and punishing them for actions that stem from their injuries.
"Combat was preferable to the (unit) and the platoon level chain of command ... were poorly trained and not earning their special pay to pay close attention to each (soldier's) case and their progress to transition," the memo states.
The soldiers at the meeting told Geren that troops with post-traumatic stress disorder are made fun of, those given electronic memory aides are held to a higher standard, and the unit has become a dumping ground for soldiers at Fort Bragg suffering from drug abuse problems.
Other complaints included issues regarding pay, lost paperwork and the lack of opportunity for promotion.
"We always are working to improve the support of our wounded, ill and injured soldiers and their families and there is no substitute for hearing directly from those we serve," Geren said in a statement provided to the AP. "The soldiers in the (unit) raised a variety of issues and made recommendations on how we could improve the Bragg (unit)."
None of the soldiers that met with Geren were identified by name, but the memo said all had been assigned to the Warrior Transition system for at least 10 months.
The memo was obtained from a person at Fort Bragg who requested anonymity because the unit's discipline record is being reviewed. Officials at Fort Bragg confirmed the memo was written and sent to the unit's commander, Lt. Col. Jay Thornton.
"The notes received from the Warriors in Transition were written after the fact and based on memory and are not intended to serve as an official transcript," said Shannon Lynch, a spokeswoman at Fort Bragg's Womack Army Medical Center. "They are merely a collection of comments from various perspectives."
Geren said he discussed the meeting with Thornton and Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, the commander in charge of the Army's more than 9,000 wounded soldiers, and is awaiting their report. Cheek has asked the Army Surgeon General to look at discipline taken against soldiers in the unit to ensure each case was fair.
At the end of his meeting with the soldiers, Geren asked three "survey" questions on a scale of one to three, with three being the best. The majority of soldiers present gave the unit's chain of command and platoon leadership a 2 or 1 and rated morale "overwhelmingly low." Only educational opportunities got a three rating.
Well, I'm glad to hear the soldiers are actually getting their voice heard. It seems like alot of this has been swept under the rug. It's about time people start realizing the severity of these soldiers mental, and health issues. I really hope more is done to correct the treatment of these soldiers. They've been giving their lives for our country, it's only right we show them the gratitude and respect they deserve!!
Well said Angel and thank you boogieman for posting this for us to read.,this should be aired by the media so more Americans may get the facts ,if it was investigated by the Assosiated Press how come so few people are aware what is happening....
I know a man who was a returning infantry veteran of Vietnam. The horrendous things he had seen and taken part of was something nobody should have to endure. There were worse things he won't talk about. Twice his unit had the dreadful agent orange sprayed directly on their position. Everyone became so ill they had to be airlifted out, and he still suffers the affects of it today. He spent time in a mental facility when he returned. He feels as though the military thought all they had to do was say, thanks for your help, goodbye, and good riddance.
It does not surprise me they would do it now, but the other thing that I read into this is the tremendous numbers they are talking about. Media has the numbers of the dead, but as I have always felt, what about the tattered souls and the physically wounded, where are those numbers? I would believe that the facilities have been overwhelmed by these injured who want to be accounted for, taken care of, and healed. More than anticipated.
We have all witnessed programs done on past wars, heros who stood steady, carried out miraculous tasks sometimes while wounded themselves. The strength they must have had, then 60 years later, some began to weep no matter how hard they try not to, and apologize for it as they resurrect what happened to them and their friends so long ago. They will recall that people who knew them recognized that they were "different" when they returned.
It's difficult to understand why today's military would treat returning soldiers, those who have had to repeat what their predecessors went through, in such a disrespectful manner. They deserve better.
You would have thought we learned our lesson by now that war for most soldiers doesn't end when they come home. There has been enough past history of soldiers coming home from war and the after effects that we should be more prepared and willing to help.
i wasn't going to respond to this. this sort of stuff gets me so angry. i'm a marines wife. he recently decided to not reenlist. so he's home with his children and i. he luckily came home without any physical injuries. so he never had to spend time in the hospital. however, he does have the emotional scars. he was diagnosed with a mild form of ptsd. did his commanding officers do anything to help? nope. he met with their doc who signs the papers that he's ok to be "released" into civilian life. i loved that...it sounded as though they were "releasing" a wild animal. bah...that's another story. he now wakes up in the middle of the nights screaming and crying (when he does fall asleep), has anger issues and normally has insomnia. he'll stay up for days until he literally passes out. i know he didn't have it as bad as the guys at fort bragg....but he and i understand their feeling of being forgotten. the only time greg's stf sgt was nice to him was when it was time to reenlist. when he decided not to....his stf sgt. the man who greg was supposed to look up to, to follow without question began insulting ME. some officers...and stations, forts whatever....are just....GAH!
these men and women risk their lives...the least their commanding officers can do is listen to them. let them know that their not lost and forgotten. that they are appreciated for what they gave up for their country.
It was insensitive of me to not acknowledge the families and what they must go through. The fear, sadness, and burdens they must feel while their spouses are in harms way. Trying to raise children on a meager income. The country owes a significant amount of gratitude to you, others like you, and the children who suffer the collateral damage of war. I can't possibly imagine. I can imagine however that you must feel helpless in your ability to help minimize your husbands pain. I'm at a loss for words, how can anybody come up with the right words for the way your husband, your family, and countless others like you have been treated? Even harder yet, is how can anyone come up with the words that explain how they are able to bask in the enjoyment of freedom while denying those who paid the highest price for it?
Thank you for responding, there are many of you who have earned the right to be angry, you should be heard.
ty for the kind words. it is hard but it's something we're taking day by day and hopefully with therapy he'll be able to get at least a little better. he some awful things while in iraq, lost a very close friend of his and he just hasn't been the same since.
I was a little upset to not see mentioned the Army wives and children who suffer as well!!! There is absolutely no support system, especially when your husband is pulled from his unit and deployed with an out of state unit. maybe if they received better care we would to,but shouldn't it all come in one pkg? I thought we were all in this together.
Vets Endangered by Improperly Sterilized Equipment
Date Published: Friday, March 27th, 2009
Even though the Veterans Administration (VA) isn’t saying much, it seems as if thousands of military veterans might have been exposed to dangerous, life-threatening pathogens from colonoscopies and endoscopies they underwent as long as five years ago. The Associated Press (AP) reports that military veterans in the southern United States are awaiting word about potential and serious infections.
WSMV reports that no less than 10 patients have tested positive for hepatitis B or C or HIV. At least one man has consulted with malpractice attorneys and more are expected. The man, who is in his 50s, tested positive for hepatitis C; he and his lawyers believe a colonoscopy at the Murfreesboro Veterans Administration two years prior to be the culprit, said WSMV. Now, the long-married father must endure protected sex with his wife for the rest of their lives, it noted.
The VA won’t say exactly what happened, but did acknowledge in warnings to veterans who had received the invasive procedures in the past five years that they were potentially exposed to other patients’ bodily fluids and should be tested for diseases such as hepatitis and HIV, said the AP.
The VA admitted this week that the water tubes and reservoirs it used in colonoscopies and endoscopies were rinsed—not disinfected—between procedures. This practice could expose subsequent patients to contamination, said the Miami Herald. In south Florida alone, over 3,000 veterans underwent medical procedures since 2004 in which the improper processes were followed, said the Miami Herald; Boston.com reported that up to 9,000 patients may have been contaminated. WSMV reported that, late last year, the VA found a wrong tubing valve might have been used during procedures as far back as April 2003, which could have resulted in body fluid transmission between patients.
This January, the VA finished a report on the problem in Murfreesboro, including the cause for equipment switches, incorrect equipment use, and improper sterilization processes, said WSMV; however, the VA insisted that, in the majority of cases—seven out of 10 factors cited—the problem was with the equipment manufacturer, Olympus. According to WSMV, the VA said that “unclear product instructions” from Olympus are to blame for the potential spread of deadly infections.
Now, the government has become involved. “We owe these folks the highest obligation because they have protected our country; we should protect them,” said U.S. Representative Jim Cooper (Democrat-Nashville). “So Congress needs to do whatever it takes to make sure all of our veterans are safe,” He told WSMV.
Boston.com reported that Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass) asked the VA’s inspector general to initiate an inspection of sanitation procedures at VA hospitals, saying in a statement that, “The Veterans Administration has inherited a tragic situation, and a full review is needed so we can find out how this happened, correct the situation, and make sure it never happens again…. The Obama Administration has already … taken responsibility.”
The Miami Herald reported that VA hotlines and clinics in Florida received thousands of calls and hundreds of visits from worried veterans looking to schedule testing following the VA’s announcement earlier this week.
Thank you for that there seems to be a lot to be done and the airing of it brings it to our attention, thats what these forums are for to give us information what is happening for those of us who care..
Wow...that's just awful. Thank you for the post. Like margy said we need this out in the open so, it gets the attention it deserves. Hopefully, that will help to prevent this type of thing from happening.
This revelation is rather scary if you think about it. How many other hospitals are having the same problem? Don't these Veterans deserve the best medical treatment? Why are we not regulating the sterilization process better?
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