One reason vet care is so important

Veterans issues have been in the news recently, appropriately and necessarily, due to Senators Webb’s continuing efforts on a 21st century GI Bill, the disgraceful behavior of a VA hospital employee instructing doctors to avoid making PTSD diagnoses, and because of a number of stories about recovery from injuries.

That last category is one that tends to be overlooked, but it’s vital. Two factors are combining in this particular war to lower the number of soldiers killed but significantly raise the number of those who survive catastrophic injuries. As a comparison, in Vietnam, there were roughly 60,000 U.S. troops killed and about 300,000 wounded, for a 1 to 5 killed to injured ratio. In Iraq, there are approximately 4,000 dead but nearly 30,000 wounded, making the ratio drastically different — about 1 to 7.5 killed to injured. I imagine there are several factors involved in this, but two main ones are: (1) The *extraordinary* advances in medicine, especially on the battlefield, and (2) the nature of the injuries — burns and (relatively) small explosions far more than gunshots and large explosive munitions. Combine these two factors and many more injured troops are being saved than ever before . . . but that means people are surviving with life-changing injuries (major burns, loss of limb(s), etc). Not to mention brain injuries from explosions that often go undiagnosed.

So this issue of veteran care is far from academic, and the effects are far from uncommon. As one example, via a reader comes an NBC interview with a severely burned Army Sergeant that’s tough to watch but vitally important for people to understand what this war means for individual lives on a daily basis. There’s no need to politicize injuries or the stories of particular people, and readers know my thoughts on the war in general, so regarding this story, I just want to say that Americans should view this war with both eyes open. Too often the real and profound human costs are ignored.

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