Two years ago, I finagled two friends into agreeing to start an organization to provide adaptive clothing for the wounded troops, Sew Much Comfort. I got them to agree by saying, "How many can there be?" - referring to the wounded and the resulting amount of effort they would need to invest in the "little project". Surely, we'd sew a few things and be done! That was two years and over 20,000 items ago!
So, how can I get so upset when people ask the same question of me now?
People are forever asking me if we are still sewing? How many items do you need - 100? Last November, we delivered over 200 boxers to Walter Reed alone! But what really gets my goat is "Is there still a need?"
There is a very dangerous media misconception that has infiltrated the American public - the only statistic they seem concerned with is the number of service members killed in action. While this is without a doubt an extremely tragic number - we recently topped 3,000 service members who have died - there is no focus on the massive number of wounded - over 22,000! The legacy of this war will not be measured only in gravestones, but in prosthetics and wheelchairs. And the American public has no concept of what these incredible men and women are struggling through with courage, honor and chutzpa every day - and in what numbers. So many lack the knowledge that for every one service member killed in action there are 10 wounded.
I cannot say enough about the incredible medical care the service members are receiving. I was told by one young medic that they can get a chopper into a 'hot zone' in under two minutes. I can't get 9-1-1 to respond in under two minutes and they live down the street with no bombs or snipers to worry about! Not to mention the incredible medics who are imbedded with the troops to decrease the time between an injury and medical attention and the absolutely world-class medical staffs at the combat surgical hospitals in-theatre! Gratitude for body armor can't be over-emphasized, but let's remember that body armor doesn't protect the limbs and head.
I just think it's sad that so many in the public have been left with no information about the real impact of the war. News coverage of the wounded is limited to an occasional, grandiose news story that makes it easy to forget these men and women are putting forth herculean efforts to regain their lives and some semblance of normalcy. And, for them, it's not occassionally, when the news media show up - it's every day of their lives.
Tribute goes out to their families as well! They uproot their lives - as if deployment wasn't enough of an uprooting - and move to such exotic locations as Malogne House at Walter Reed or the Fisher House at Brooke Army Medical Center or a hotel in Tampa for sometimes more than a year. I know one couple who just went ahead and purchased a house in San Antonio because they figure they will be there for a long time. These families are the courageous backbone that secures the peace of mind and fortitude for the recovering troops. They sacrifice jobs, financial security and so much more to support their service member.
Honors belong to the many medical staff members and volunteers that deal with the heavy burden of returning troops with grace, dignity, compassion and strength we all know is an intricate part of military medical members. There is an organization, Freedom Calls, that provides telecommunication for the troops in the field. I understand that in a few weeks this will also be available to family members from the hallowed halls of Lanstuhl, Germany! Thanks to John Harlow and the extraordinary staff at Landstuhl for being willing to take on this additional duty for the wounded and their families. But do you see what I mean about the incredible fortitude and generosity of the medical staff!?!?! They are amazing!
SO, my tirade needs to come to an end - although.....no, won't start again! I just think it's important that we give the same amount of attention to the wounded - perhaps the nightly news could tell the number of wounded and the number killed in action. There just needs to be a greater awareness of how many seriously wounded there are and how much of a heroic effort it is taking them, their families and the medical staffs to bring them back to fully participate in normal life!