Friday, March 03, 2006

Family Values

For the 56,000 Army marriages that have ended since the war on terror began, a Freedom Salute medal doesn't mean much. It isn't particularly valuable for this father, whose son returned from Iraq. He wrote:

"I need your help. My son's body showed up at my house for Christmas but [my wife] and I did not know the person who claimed to be [our son]. He was severely drunk every day for the whole week, belligerent, and generally just someone that nobody wanted anything to do with. He has nightmares every night of the murdered innocent children and civilian Iraqis. The Army has abandoned him as far as giving him help. They will go out of their way to help him re-enlist though."

A Freedom Salute medal isn't going to make things better for Pat Gunn, who got this response from the Army after she contacted a member of Congress when her son was redeployed to Iraq following a diagnosis of PTSD:

"SPC Gunn was wounded in the leg during an attack on his HUMVEE. The soldier behind him was literally torn in half. After returning from convalescent leave [Gunn] was informed he would be redeployed. [He] indicated he would not go back to Iraq [and] was sent to Heidelberg Hospital for evaluation. They concluded he was suffering some post traumatic stress from seeing his comrade killed so violently. They recommended he be retained and treated at Heidelberg, [which] was contacted by medical authorities from Iraq. After discussion of his case it was determined [that SPC Gunn be] treat[ed] downrange [as it] may be in his best interest mentally to overcome his fear by facing it. [SPC Gunn was] cleared for redeployment."

The Freedom Salute medal is just tin on a ribbon for the families of Marine Reservist Jeffrey Lucey, National Guardsman Doug Barber, and the dozens of other Iraq Veterans who have committed suicide after the Veterans Administration refused to treat them. Last year, the VA denied requests for care from over a quarter of a million veterans. Congress has tried to cut funding for veterans, and has grossly underestimated the needs of the soldiers returning from Iraq. You want to take care of our veterans? Quit making new ones.

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