March 14, 2007
Don't Paint the Medical Corps with One BrushBy Maj. Gen. Edison E. Scholes (ret.)
The criticisms directed at Walter Reed Hospital have tarnished too many. Those who have called a B-52 strike on the great people of the U.S. Army Medical Corps have missed the bad guys.
Many, like the SECDEF, should have quickly realized that you can not name any military Medics you have seen/known who were not willing to give their all (life if necessary) to give the best care possible (within their capability) to wounded Soldiers. The great Medics at Walter Reed have been doing just that, during 10-16 hr. days, since the War on Terror started, in addition to their normal busy patient load.
Even if we use the Washington Post Sunday edition as "the authority on Soldier care", they admitted that the relieved Commander had taken action to fix those areas that he was aware of and could fix since being there only 6 months. I personally know that the relieved commander and his wife have spent a lifetime in dedicated care to Soldiers and their Families. He has done it in combat, multiple times, with our elite forces, and in the medical training center. Their (and others') "reward" for a lifetime of dedicated care to Soldiers and Families has been disgraceful and disgusting to anyone who knows the truth.
They have been blamed for decades of under-funding for Walter Reed. Will those in DOD responsible for this be relieved? Will the idiots who placed Walter Reed on the BRAC list for closure while this nation's military is at war be relieved and disgraced? Those with a military background know what it means when this happens to an installation. It gives the bean counters an excuse not to provide funds to fix anything and not to fill personnel shortages.
Many civilians start looking for other jobs near home and no one wants a job in an installation that is closing. The superb military medical care provided by the different Services was gutted during the Clinton Administration, and funding centralized at the DOD level. That system has only become worse.
Do the folks at Walter Reed experience problems daily? You bet and they deal with them within their capability while keeping their Rucks packed to be ready to replace some Medic in Afghan, Iraq, or Landstuhl, or to be ready to meet a Medevac plane at Andrews, or to pick up some grieving loved ones of a Soldier.
Are there problems with paperwork? You bet! Have you tried to complete/coordinate VA disability/medical forms or coordinate medical care between the National Guard, reserve and active duty systems? I only have a master's degree and I have problems with the forms.
For those who might want a good news story, I would ask you to look at the other 99% of the operations at Walter Reed. A start would be to look at the lives saved and cared for daily, and the enormous efforts required to do this. Look at the amazing programs initiated at Walter Reed for in-patients and out-patients, and for family members/loved ones of wounded Soldiers.
Look at how they bring many family members in to be with their Soldier while they are there for treatment. They and the Soldiers get top priority for housing and other needs while on Post. Look at the multitude of programs conducted daily by the military, veteran's groups, and commercial and private organizations/individuals. They provide everything you can imagine to the Soldiers and Families, all free of charge.
If you want to see the results of a complete reversal of public, private, and governmental support for our Troops compared to our Vietnam period, come and visit Walter Reed, and stop listening to those people in journalism and politics taking long range cheap shots that paints all with the same brush. I have personally witnessed the dedicated, emotional, exhaustive, selfless service of our Medical Troops caring for their fellow Soldiers from Baghdad to Medevac helicopter to Balad Air Base to Medevac plane to Landstuhl to Walter Reed, and other places in U.S.
It doesn't stop and they must always be ready at all times, day and night.
The Medics many times go until they drop from exhaustion. Why? Because they, more then anyone, know that American Soldiers deserve the finest medical care they can give, within their capability. Because they, more then anyone perhaps, know what the horrors of war do to our/their fellow Soldiers, and they are reminded everyday. They wipe their tears and get on with their critical jobs, and thank GOD for them.
Will they give priority to unloading a Medevac or trying to save a life over helping a Troop fill out a form? Yes but they get that done too, when they can and if they are able.
Are they responsible for the Government's complex, stupid funding and contracting processes? Absolutely not, but let all the ones responsible and the publicity seekers run to climb on the blame-pointing wagon and get their time on T.V. at the expense of all our great Medics, since they are being painted with the same brush. Some are no better then the anti-American bunch that stands across the street from Walter Reed with their obscene signs.
Walter Reed and our other military care facilities need the maximum attention of our national leadership, but the blame must be shared by all.
Maj. Gen. Edison E Scholes, USA (ret.)