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September 2, 2003

Back to school

Posted by Phil on September 2, 2003 7:50 PM

A new political season arrives after a record-breakingly soggy weekend where I live. I've been out for awhile. (I was actually surprised when I saw how long. It just seemed like a few days.) A couple people have asked why, and I can't say for sure. Partly busy, partly at a loss to single out particular outrages, partly feeling a sense of pointlessness, partly sick of being such a smarty-pants.

So I'm going to start slow. Via Cursor, here's a Tom Paine story about Americans wounded in Iraq, and about how there are so few other stories about them. Even this one is unable to give an accurate accounting of just how many there are, although this Washington Post story states a fairly authoritative 1,124.

However, the total number of service people airlifted back to the U.S. is closer to 6,000 and includes those injured in accidents or suffering from physical or psychological illness. To provide beds for them all, Andrews Air Force Base, their first stateside stop before being transported on to their home bases, has had to expand a "contingency aeromedical staging facility" into an indoor tennis club and a community center.

Although the government and media report these numbers with far less frequency and accuracy, they represent lives and families altered or ruined as surely as does the number of those killed (301). (For an excerpt that illustrates how, click More, below.) Both numbers are, of course, climbing.

I hope the President had a very nice vacation.

From "Number of Wounded in Action on Rise," Washington Post, 9/2/2003:

At Walter Reed, a half-hour drive from Andrews, Maj. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the hospital's commanding general, said there were only two days in July and four in August that the hospital did not admit soldiers injured in Iraq.

"The orthopedic surgeons are very busy, and the nursing services are very busy, both in the intensive care units and on the wards," he said, explaining that there have been five or six instances in recent months when all of the hospital's 40 intensive care beds have been filled -- mostly with battlefield wounded.

Kiley said rocket-propelled grenades and mines can wound multiple troops at a time and cause "the kind of amputating damage that you don't necessarily see with a bullet wound to the arm or leg."

The result has been large numbers of troops coming back to Walter Reed and National Naval Medical with serious blast wounds and arms and legs that have been amputated, either in Iraq or at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where virtually all battlefield casualties are treated and stabilized.

"A few of us started volunteering [at Walter Reed] as amputees in 1991, and this is the most we've seen ever," said Jim Mayer, a double amputee from the Vietnam War who works at the Veterans Administration. "I've never seen anything like this. But I haven't seen anybody not get good care."