Thursday, March 29, 2007

On Morals Week: The morality of war

Okay, so as we continue with Morals Week, the UNC-Greensboro College Republicans celebrate Support Our Troops Day, and so do we.

We here at Practically Harmless, of course, believe that supporting our troops means not bombing a country into a chaotic hellpit and sending them in undermanned, underarmed, and underarmored. But if you're going to be a doofus and do that anyway, we further believe that supporting our troops means taking care of them while they're there and after they come back. Which makes us really wonder about the morality of screwing with a veteran's medical diagnosis to deny him disability benefits:
on Town has spent the last few years fighting two battles, one against his body, the other against the US Army. Both began in October 2004 in Ramadi, Iraq. He was standing in the doorway of his battalion's headquarters when a 107-millimeter rocket struck two feet above his head....

Eventually the rocket shrapnel was removed from Town's neck and his ears stopped leaking blood. But his hearing never really recovered, and in many ways, neither has his life. A soldier honored twelve times during his seven years in uniform, Town has spent the last three struggling with deafness, memory failure and depression. By September 2006 he and the Army agreed he was no longer combat-ready.

But instead of sending Town to a medical board and discharging him because of his injuries, doctors at Fort Carson, Colorado, did something strange: They claimed Town's wounds were actually caused by a "personality disorder." Town was then booted from the Army and told that under a personality disorder discharge, he would never receive disability or medical benefits.

Town is not alone. A six-month investigation has uncovered multiple cases in which soldiers wounded in Iraq are suspiciously diagnosed as having a personality disorder, then prevented from collecting benefits....

He was fit enough to serve when he signed up in the first place, but by gum that deafness-depression-and-memory-failure-inducing personality disorder turned into a bitch when he got back from Iraq. Too bad, really. Morality's hell.

But that's only for soldiers who're injured badly enough to get booted out of the Army without benefits.
If you're only kinda injured, like, say, injured enough to need surgery, recovery, and physical therapy, your reward is... well, one out of three ain't bad.
Last November, Army Spc. Edgar Hernandez, a communications specialist with a unit of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, had surgery on an ankle he had injured during physical training. After the surgery, doctors put his leg in a cast, and he was supposed to start physical therapy when that cast came off six weeks later.

But two days after his cast was removed, Army commanders decided it was more important to send him to a training site in a remote desert rather than let him stay at Fort Benning, Ga., to rehabilitate. In January, Hernandez was shipped to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., where his unit, the 3,900-strong 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, was conducting a month of training in anticipation of leaving for Iraq in March. ...

Hernandez had served two tours in Iraq, where he helped maintain communications gear in the unit's armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles. But he could not participate in war maneuvers conducted on a 1,000-square-mile mock battlefield located in the harsh Mojave Desert. Instead, when he got to California, he was led to a large tent where he would be housed. He was shocked by what he saw inside: There were dozens of other hurt soldiers. Some were on crutches, and others had arms in slings. Some had debilitating back injuries. And nearby was another tent, housing female soldiers with health issues ranging from injuries to pregnancy. ...

A military official knowledgeable about the training in California in January and the medical processing of the injured soldiers at Fort Benning in February told Salon that commanders were taking desperate actions to meet an accelerated deployment schedule dictated by President Bush's so-called surge plan for securing Baghdad. "None of this would have happened if we had just slowed down a little bit," the military official said. "A lot of people were under a lot of pressure at that time."

This is in addition to all of the seriously injured troops whose conditions are being downgraded in order to make them deployable. Which sucks for them. But seriously, people, I think we need to start questioning the quality of our military recruiting efforts when we're getting folks who'll let weenie problems like broken bones and spine injuries and freaking narcolepsy slow them down. What a bunch of pansies. Walk it off, guys. Rub some dirt in it.

But you know what is even more moral than getting troops shot and blown up, denying them benefits, and sending them back into battle when they're too injured to go? Keeping them there indefinitely. That's way moral. Totally, totally, totally moral. Moral like whoa.

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