At Walter Reed, Care for Soldiers Struggling With War’s Mental Trauma Is Undermined by Doctor Shortages and Unfocused Methods
On the military plane that crossed the ocean at night, the wounded lay in stretchers stacked three high. The drone of engines was broken by the occasional sound of moaning. Sedated and sleeping, Pfc. Joshua Calloway was at the top of one stack last September. Unlike the others around him, Calloway was handcuffed to his stretcher.
When the 20 year old infantry soldier woke up, he was on the locked down psychiatric ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. A nurse handed him pajamas and a robe, but they reminded him of the flowing clothes worn by Iraqi men. He told the nurse, “I don’t want to look like a freakin’ Haj.” He wanted his uniform. Request denied. Shoelaces and belts were prohibited.
Calloway felt naked without his M-4, his constant companion during his tour south of Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division. The year-long deployment claimed the lives of 50 soldiers in his brigade. Two committed suicide. Calloway, blue-eyed and lantern-jawed, lasted nine months, until the afternoon he watched his sergeant step on a pressure plate bomb in the road. The young soldier’s knees buckled and he vomited in the reeds before he was ordered to help collect body parts. A few days later he was sent to the combat stress trailers, where he was given antidepressants and rest, but after a week he was still twitching and sleepless. The Army decided that his war was over.
Every month, 20 to 40 soldiers are evacuated from Iraq because of mental problems, according to the Army. Most are sent to Walter Reed along with other war wounded. For amputees, the nation’s top Army hospital offers state of the art prosthetics and physical rehab programs, and soon, a new $10 million amputee center with a rappelling wall and virtual reality center.
Nothing so gleaming exists for soldiers with diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, who in the Army alone outnumber all of the war’s amputees by 43 to 1. The Army has no PTSD center at Walter Reed, and its psychiatric treatment is weak compared with the best PTSD programs the government offers. Instead of receiving focused attention, soldiers with combat-stress disorders are mixed in with psych patients who have issues ranging from schizophrenia to marital strife.
Even though Walter Reed maintains the largest psychiatric department in the Army, it lacks enough psychiatrists and clinicians to properly treat the growing number of soldiers returning with combat stress. Earlier this year, the head of psychiatry sent out an “SOS” memo desperately seeking more clinical help.
Thank you The Washington Post, Anne Hull and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
If you do not believe that this condition exists…go to any VFW Post and talk to anyone there…! You can see it in thier faces, their eyes and in thier stories…WAR IS HELL!
And if you have a story to share about your experience with the military or VA health care systems…here is the contact information:
The Washington Post at (202) 334-4880 or by Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your stories need to be heard, so we can stop this war and bring our men and women home.
For those of you who don’t know Ernie Pyle was my Uncle, he died geting the soliders stories back to the states.
Those of you who want to read more about Pfc. Joshua Calloway, here is a link for you to do so:
The Twisted Sister is ANTI~WAR but PRO~Troops.
DON’T forget “Hire our returning VETS!” They need our support for the support they have given this counry.
~The Baby Boomer Queen~