Bring It On!

Helping Heroes Heal

June 6th, 2008 | by Liberal Jarhead |
Every war is the same, and every war is unique.
They’re all the same in that they destroy in seconds what took people years to create.  
They all destroy lives, families, communities, dreams, possibilities.  They all squander
wealth and talent that could otherwise have done an infinite number of things to make
the world better. 
But they’re all different – every war generates its own subculture, its own slang, its
own characteristic hardware, and its own signature ways of killing and wounding
people.
As the media have been telling us for a while now, the signature injury of the current
war in Iraq and Afghanistan is the traumatic brain injury (TBI).   And the more we
learn, the worse it gets – some of the effects, though they profoundly damage the
lives of the men and women who are hurt, have been beyond the ability of medical
science to detect until recently.
What they’re finding is that being caught in the blast zone of an improvised explosive
device (IED), another of the hallmarks of this war, can do awful things to people’s
brains even when they are externally unmarked and may not even realize they’re hurt.  
But some of the higher brain functions that make us human, that make us better and
more functional humans, can be diminished or wrecked.  Marines, soldiers, airmen,
and sailors caught nearby when IEDs go off lose concentration and thinking ability. 
They are left with unstable moods, memory problems, and insomnia, even when they
still have their hearing, eyesight, motor functions, and basic mental capacities.  
Several hundred thousand young Americans may have some level of TBI and
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of service in Iraq or Afghanistan.  
For a lot of them these haven’t hasn’t been properly diagnosed.  They’re often at
much higher risk for divorce, domestic violence, unemployability, homelessness,
and suicide.  In many cases, their TBIs and PTSD lead to problems with impulse
control and anger management that the military chooses to treat as disciplinary
issues, and are kicked out with bad discharges that make them ineligible for VA
treatment.
Among those trying to help our troops and veterans who have offered
themselves as human shields and swords to protect our Constitution and all the
rest of us, there’s an organization called the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.  
They’re starting an advanced facility dedicated to research, diagnosis and treatment
of military personnel and veterans suffering from TBI and posttraumatic stress
disorder (PTSD), which is also epidemic among returning veterans.  It’s called the
National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE).
This will be a 72,000 square foot, two story facility located at the Bethesda,
Maryland Navy hospital, adjacent to the new Walter Reed National Military
Medical Center.  The Center will serve active duty people and veterans from
all branches of the armed forces, and will coordinate its work with the VA.
The ground-breaking ceremony was yesterday, June 5, and NICoE expects
to finish construction late next year.
NICoE will provide military personnel and veterans with advanced diagnostics,
treatment planning, family education, introduction to therapeutic approaches,
referral and reintegration support.  They’ll be a priceless addition to what the
good people of the VA are able to do – for those they’re able to reach, the
VA’s staff do all they can, but there aren’t enough of them, and as noted some
of the wounded who most need help are left ineligible for the VA’s services.  
They will also provide comprehensive training and education to patients,
providers and families, and they’ll provide ongoing follow-up care across the
country and throughout the world, i.e. in places where VA services may be
difficult or impossible to reach.
As well as providing services based on the current state of the art, NICoE will
advance that state of the art by carrying out research and testing new therapies.  
This project is expected to cost $75 million (that’s about how much America is
projected to spend on the Iraq war every four and a half hours during 2008).
Close to $15 million is already raised, and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is
launching a campaign to raise the remainder.  They need to raise half of the
total project cost – another $22.5 million – this year to keep construction on
schedule.
A sister organization, the Fisher House Foundation, functions like the Ronald
McDonald houses that give parents a place to stay while their children are
hospitalized.  They’ll build a 21-suite Fisher House near NICoE for the families
of patients, and two more houses on another part of the installation.  Family
involvement in treatment of patients will be a critical part of the program, and for
a lot of families would otherwise be impossible to afford.  Fisher House
Foundation is working to raise funds for these new houses.
You can find more information at www.fallenheroesfund.org.  The Intrepid
Fallen Heroes Fund gives 100% of all contributions to the NICoE project;
nothing is deducted for administrative expenses.
Speaking for myself, I am sick and tired of neocons who yammer about
supporting the troops, slap yellow magnets on their SUVs, and equate
questioning the administration with lack of patriotism, but then vote to cut
VA funding; block cost-of-living raises  and cut benefits for the troops,
families, and vets; try to block the new GI Bill; and so on.  
BIO has done a good job in this area, separating our opposition to the
Bush administration’s policies and the Iraq war from our appreciation for
the troops who have no voice in when and where they are sent to fight. 
For example, my wife Jan and I have gotten a lot of positive comments 
about the BIO bumper stickers that help buy body armor for troops 
overseas; BIO has also been a solid support for Bake Sales For Body
Armor.   So I’m hoping this will resonate with some of you, too.  If anyone
feels like getting involved with this or passing this on, I want to make sure
you have the information.
Thanks for your time – 
Semper Fidelis,
Jim

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