Friday, January 21, 2011

It's a No Brainer

While driving home this evening I heard a story on NPR about military veterans with traumatic brain injuries sustained in combat being unable to receive cognitive rehabilitation therapy. It seems the pentagon has decided that the therapy is experimental, unproven and more to the point too expensive. Of course when asked directly their spokesman denies that cost is in any way a consideration. Such denials amount to the pentagon urinating on these veterans and telling them it’s raining.

With the rare exception like the world wars where we were responding to evil on a massive scale I have always felt that at best war is a failure of leadership and diplomacy and often and at worst something fought for profit, power and prestige. In America we have fallen into the habit of squandering the flower of our youth in meaningless and immoral wars fought not by the whole country but rather by the very small percentage of young people we are willing to sacrifice on the altar of depraved indifference. It is an undeniably idiotic waste of life that serves no purpose and obtains no result that could not have been achieved peacefully.

This rant however is not about the futility and stupidity of war and the immorality of those who send our children off to die uselessly. Rather it is about the debt we owe those patriots who having drunk the cool aid, placed their hand over their heart and swore to do or die for mom and apple pie. The lucky ones come home unscathed physically, mentally or emotionally. The unlucky come home in a box or with life altering wounds to their bodies or minds or both. Their lives are forever changed and the challenges they must overcome in pursuit of a normal quality of life are enormous.

Behind them on battlefields most of us will never see they have left limbs, blood and brain power. Those who are critically wounded face a life far different from the one they could have had if they had ignored the call of their country. Their lives and the lives of their families and friends are forever changed and not for the better. Simple task like eating, bathing, dressing oneself and mobility become obstacles to overcome and challenges to master.

Playing with one’s children can be limited or impossible if one can still have them. In some cases love making, bus riding and counting change are all on the other side of a hill that looks like a mountain. The normal activities of daily living that the rest of us still take for granted have for many veterans become onerous, difficult and sometimes impossible. Some even hopefully most will be embraced by their families, friends and communities. They will be cared for, advocated for and loved by their loved ones with differing degrees of success and reintegration into their former lives.

Some won’t have families to return to and some will lose loved ones who cannot deal with the new reality they face. Beyond counseling there is not much anyone can do about the effects their injuries have on their relationships. It is unconscionable though that we might stand by while they are deprived of any and all therapies, treatments and modalities of recovery and rehabilitation that might ease their pain and improve their quality of life.

They have put their lives on the line and been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of losing their lives for us. How can we not go to any limit or bear any cost necessary to restoring the highest possible quality of life to these willing heroes who have given so much in our name. Experimental or not if the proscribed therapy has a one percent chance of restoring cognitive or physical function to the least degree we owe it to these men and woman. Two wrongs do not a right make. We were wrong to send them off to war in the first place. Lets not compound that by refusing to care for their wounds now.

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