They’ve already paid a price

Published 12:37 pm Sunday, March 4, 2007

By Staff
It’s tragic when American military personnel are deployed overseas and wounded.
It’s even more tragic when they return home to have their wounds treated and undergo rehabilitation, if needed, only to find the care they are being provided is inadequate at best. For those who have suffered bodily damage because they put themselves in harm’s way, they should be able to rest in the knowledge they will be taken care of by the nation they bled for.
The general running Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where many soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated, has been fired. And if Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman is responsible for the sad situation at the medical center, he should be punished for dereliction of duty.
Wounded soldiers living in run-down housing and hospital administrators ignoring unacceptable situations are among the issues being focused on by news reports. And according to those reports, the bulk of the problems center around the treatment of soldiers who are well enough to be outpatients.
The Pentagon continues to investigate problems at the medical center and who is responsible for those problems. The fact the Pentagon decided to get rid of Weightman, a doctor whose been in the Army for 33 years, before its investigation has concluded indicates there’s something significantly wrong at the medical center. And because people operate and manage the medical center, the problem is a people problem.
That’s the sad part. Some people aren’t doing what they should be doing to help people who need help so they can recover and function as well as possible when they resume their lives away from the medical center.
Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey’s decision to fire Weightman is a step in the right direction when it comes to efforts to correct the problems at the medical center. Robert Gates, secretary of defense, supports Harvey’s move to oust Weightman.
Weightman’s superiors, including Gates and Harvey, hold some measure of accountability for Weightman’s shortcomings and the problems at the medical center. If evidence shows anyone else is to blame for the deplorable treatment of soldiers at the medical center, those responsible must be held accountable for what they did or did not do.
Weightman, several days before he was fired, told reporters the problems at the medical center are magnified because the medical center is located in the nation’s capital.
Even if the medical center is in a fishbowl, that’s reason enough to make sure the center’s patients are being cared for in an appropriate manners — people are looking. And if people are looking, one would think the medical center’s administrators would want the world to see that American soldiers are receiving the best care available.
They are entitled to it. More importantly, they deserve it.
Perhaps now we know why military personnel wounded in battle receive Purple Hearts. Purple is a color associated with bruising.
Discovering that soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are not being cared for in the manner they deserve should bruise our hearts. The Army must do better when it comes to taking care of its wounded soldiers so that they can begin to heal — physically, mentally and spiritually. They’ve already paid a price overseas. They should not have to pay another price after returning to America.
When it comes to war, soldiers should expect suffering on the battlefield. They should never suffer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.