Defense Update: The ‘Do-Gooders’
By some estimates, about one in five service members return from deployments with traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the last decade, the military says that more than 230,000 service members have suffered traumatic brain injuries, about 10 percent of the more than 2.3 million people who have deployed.
Almost 50,000 of our troops have returned from the Iraq and Afghanistan battlefields with physical injuries — many of them horrific ones.
With such a flood of injured and disabled warriors coming home, the Veterans Administration and other government organizations are stretched to their limits and sometimes just incapable of handling the important task of helping our veterans.
Fortunately, there are literally hundreds of private foundations, organizations and charities that are helping to take up the slack.
Some are small and local, such as Freedom Station and the Warrior Foundation. Some try to help in unconventional — in the eyes of some, perhaps somewhat controversial — ways, such as Operation Calendar.
Then there are the large, national organizations that are doing a yeoman’s job in helping our wounded warriors. Some of these: the Fisher House Foundation, Homes for our Troops, Operation Homefront and Intrepid Fallen Heroes.
The latter, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, is “[p]ledging to overhaul the way the military handles the least visible wounds of war…will unveil a $100 million plan on Wednesday to construct state-of-the-art treatment centers for brain injuries and psychological disorders at nine of the largest bases in the country.”
The foundation, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, has already raised $25 million and will begin construction this month on the first two centers, at Fort Belvoir, an Army base in Virginia near Washington, and the Marines’ Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
“The signature wounds of these wars are traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress,” said Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the fund and patriarch of the New York development family that started it. “And to this day, we are not treating these people well.”
The centers will allow the Pentagon to expand and modernize treatment of traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems to a degree not currently possible at most Army and Navy hospitals, experts said.
According to fund officials, when completed, the project will represent the largest privately financed construction project ever done for the military. The Intrepid Fund has already shown its mettle and credibility as it already has built large military medical centers in Bethesda, Md., and San Antonio, Texas.
Mr. Fisher expects to have little trouble raising the remaining $75 million to complete the other seven centers. However, in view of the shrinking military budgets, Fisher has expressed concerns about whether the government will have the funds to hire the specialized personnel needed to make the centers world class. “Blunt and well known for being demanding, Mr. Fisher, 79, estimated those grants would cost $25 million to $50 million over the next three years.” The Times:
“I don’t want anything else from the government,” except that it take care of its responsibility, he said in an interview. “These guys go out and get hurt and all you give them is pills? Not in my America.”
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the vice chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, all have expressed gratitude and support for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and their project, committing to staff the centers and augment the medical staff with specially trained personnel. “If we don’t have the right numbers at Lejeune, we’ll adjust,” Gen. Dunford said. “This is at the top of my in-box.”
Let us hope that this most commendable effort stays at the top of the government’s and the Pentagon’s in-boxes, and that individual Americans will do likewise.