Of mice and veterans

Mar 072007
Authors: Luci StorelliCastro

Going to the hospital isn’t half bad. The scrumptious Jell-O, monopoly on the television and spiffy remote-controlled bed make up for any excruciating pains one might be experiencing.

It is assumed that wounded war veterans would be subject to the same hospital spoils, especially since the noble service to their country sometimes leaves them paralyzed or severely crippled. If veterans are willing to put their lives on the line for their country, should it not be equally expected for their country to invest in its soldiers’ health and wellbeing?

Although it seems that reciprocity in deeds should not even be a question when it comes to veterans who have been injured in war, a recent Washington Post article uncovered the disturbingly shocking truth about how veterans are being treated – or better put – mistreated by the country they have fought to defend.

The Washington Post story unveiled the miserable conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a treatment facility for soldiers injured in Afghanistan and Iraq. Certainly not luxurious, Walter Reed quarters were found to have stained carpets, mold growing on walls, and, in some buildings, rodent infestation.

Revelations about soldiers living in shabby, dilapidated quarters and having to endure unusually long waits to be treated have already had massive reverberations. Along with two Army investigations into the treatment of wounded soldiers, Congressional hearings are pending. Moreover, there has been an overzealous rush to patch up Walter Reed.

Most significantly, though, heads are rolling for this reprehensible treatment of soldiers. Reports from the New York Times disclosed that, apart from the ousting of Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey and Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, a captain, two noncommissioned officers, and an enlisted soldier involved in outpatient care have been booted out or reassigned.

Not only do conditions within the hospital leave much to be desired, but the red tape preventing soldiers from retiring from the military and claiming their benefits is also mind-boggling.

Before being shunned, Maj. Gen. Weightman is reported by the New York Times to have commented that, while there are some vexing problems at Walter Reed, improvements are underway.

The general supported this claim by pointing out that the number of caseworkers responsible for helping outpatients with the paperwork necessary for retiring with full benefits increased in the last year from four to 17.

That may be an improvement, but not by much considering the number of outpatients at Walter Reed and the years it takes to process that paperwork.

The incident at Walter Reed is just another item on a growing list of failures on the part of the Bush administration. If this administration had taken half the effort that it did in selling a fraudulent war to ensure veterans are given the care they deserve, than Walter Reed would not have been an issue.

Interesting how very little governing elites really do support the troops. Not only did this government fail in exhausting every means possible to avoiding war, but it also sent troops to meddle in a civil war without sufficient resources. As the cherry on top of their apathy towards the troops, those same elites, who so often parade around with little American flag pins to show their patriotic colors, are defaulting on their duties to wounded soldiers coming back from the war zone.

Perhaps war supporters at the helm of power should do away with the empty symbolic gestures of support and put their money where their mouth is.

Luci Storelli-Castro is a senior philosophy and political science double major. Her column appears every Thursday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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