“Remembering the Hospitalized Wounded”

Remembering the Hospitalized Wounded; Hospitalized Veterans Week Feb. 11-17

Feb. 10, 2007–A week in February is devoted each year to veterans confined to hospital wards in VA medical centers. Let’s not forget them—show your gratitude.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have taken a heavy toll on American bodies. Many of these wounded are not returned to duty, and face grueling months, if not years, of hospitalization.

National Hospitalized Veterans Week (Feb. 11-17) is an important yet often overlooked period of remembrance. It is a time to think about the warriors, past and present, who are patients at VA facilities, either temporarily or long-term. Take this opportunity, if at all possible, to personally visit them.

Though Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center receive the most publicity, please keep in mind that other military hospitals exist nationwide. Moreover, now that the wounded are being discharged as civilians, VA hospitals treat a number of younger veterans.

Besides them, older generations of veterans find themselves bedridden for a variety of ailments. Those with few or no family members especially enjoy visits and/or gifts. Of course, such attention is welcome all year long, not just in February.

Despite what they have suffered, the vast majority of the 22,000 wounded Afghanistan and Iraq vets remain proud of their service. Just witness the spirit they display. When asked, most quickly express a desire to return to their units. This camaraderie has a magnetic pull. Receiving a Purple Heart is not taken lightly. Many subscribe to the saying—“Turn an obstacle into an opportunity.”

As an organization, this should give us pause to redouble our efforts to ensure that American battlefield casualties receive nothing but the best in medical care.

Reminding Congress and the Administration in this regard is sometimes necessary. This was recently shown in the case of full funding for the Defense and Brain Injury Center. Severe wounds of this nature are now commonly referred to as the signature wound of the Iraq War. Indeed, 62% of patients treated in Walter Reed sustained brain injuries. Some face constant care for a lifetime.

Whether it is brain trauma or some other permanently disabling wound, physical or psychological, there can be no hesitation about providing the most up-to-date care, no matter what the cost. A recent study conducted by Harvard projected astronomical costs to properly meet the medical needs of returning war vets now and into the future.

Precise expenses can be debated, but what is not open to discussion is society’s obligation. Nothing is more sacred than the compact between the American people and their defenders. When only a tiny fraction protects the vast majority who make no sacrifices, dollars must not be an obstacle.

So demonstrate your concern for our casualties of war by keeping in touch with both the wounded and those who speak for you in Congress. They deserve our gratitude and unwavering support.

Gary Kurpius
VFW Commander-in-Chief

Note: To celebrate Hospitalized Veterans Week, please visit the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project, which promotes writing as a therapeutic outlet for hospitalized veterans. Recognized by the VFW’s Veterans Service office, HVWP was founded in 1946. HHWP also gives the veteran an opportunity to compete for prizes and be published in the organization’s publication, “Veterans’ Voices.”

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