We'll start this morning as we always do; with the latest casualty figures from our ongoing war, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 2,145
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 1,071
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through:$ 1,394,877,175, 000. 00
If you were a veteran, after all you've said and done for these United States, you'd certainly hope that Uncle Sam would remember and treat you accordingly. It's very disturbing to learn that some veterans have had their records lost or misplaced
...even those that have been under fire and have had friends die in their arms.
A strange thing happened when Christopher DeLara filed for disability benefits after his tour in Iraq: The U.S. Army said it had no records showing he had ever been overseas.
DeLara had searing memories of his combat experiences. A friend bled to death before his eyes. He saw an insurgent shoot his commander in the head. And, most hauntingly, he recalled firing at an Iraqi boy who had attacked his convoy.
The Army said it could find no field records documenting any of these incidents.
DeLara appealed, fighting for five years before a judge accepted the testimony of an officer in his unit. By then he had divorced, was briefly homeless and had sought solace in drugs and alcohol.
DeLara's case is part of a much larger problem that has plagued the U.S. military since the 1990 Gulf War: a failure to create and maintain the types of field records that have documented American conflicts since the Revolutionary War.
A joint investigation by ProPublica and The Seattle Times has found that the recordkeeping breakdown was especially acute in the early years of the Iraq war, when insurgents deployed improvised bombs with devastating effects on U.S. soldiers. The military has also lost or destroyed records from Afghanistan, according to officials and previously undisclosed documents.
The loss of field records — after-action write-ups, intelligence reports and other day-to-day accounts from the war zones — has far-reaching implications. It has complicated efforts by soldiers like DeLara to claim benefits. And it makes it harder for military strategists to learn the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the nation's most protracted wars.
The Pentagon was put on notice as early as 2005 that Army units weren't turning in records for storage to a central computer system created after a similar recordkeeping debacle in the 1990-91 Gulf War.
In that war, a lack of field records forced the Army to spend years and millions of dollars to reconstruct the locations of troops who may have been exposed to toxic plumes that were among the suspected causes of Gulf War Syndrome.
At the outset of the Iraq war, military commanders tried to avoid repeating that mistake, ordering units to preserve all historical records.
But the Army botched the job. Despite new guidelines issued in 2008 to safeguard records, some units still purged them. The next summer, the Washington National Guard's 81st Brigade Combat Team in Iraq was ordered to erase hard drives before leaving them for replacement troops to use, said a Guard spokesman, Capt. Keith Kosik.
Historians had complained about lax recordkeeping for years with little result.
"We were just on our knees begging for the Army to do something about it," said Dr. Reina Pennington, a Professor at Norwich University in Vermont who chaired the Army's Historical Advisory Committee. "It's the kind of thing that everyone nods about and agrees it's a problem but doesn't do anything about."
You know I work in the healthcare industry. We're the most heavily-regulated industry in these United States. There's something called a "legal bill" that every visit generates...never mind medical records, we're required to keep that physical piece of paper for a minimum 7 years, and any microfilmed or electronic records in perpetuity. You would think the military would have at least the same minimums, but I guess not.
But there's more our returning vets need to face. Remember half a decade ago now, when Traumatic Brain Injuries started to claw their way into our collective consciousness? Between that and PTSD, you'd think that no other injuries were ever suffered by our returning vets. There's a new one creeping up the list now...hearing loss.
It's not the first time - after WWII, certain bomber pilots experienced hearing loss in one ear, depending on which side of the plane they sat. (B-25s, mostly) You'd think we'd have learned our lesson, but it seems the military has no "institutional memory" when it comes to that sort of thing.
After a decade of war, America is well schooled on post-traumatic stress, lost limbs and traumatic brain injury, but the most common injury sustained by U.S. troops is literally a silent wound: hearing loss.
Mark Brogan, a retired Army captain, can speak quite personally about almost all of those examples of combat carnage – he suffered a brain injury, a spinal injury and a nearly severed right arm when a suicide bomber on foot detonated his weapon near Brogan six year ago in Iraq.
Mark Brogan sustained a spinal injury, a brain injury, a nearly severed arm - and severe hearing loss - when a suicide bomber blew himself up not far from Brogan in Iraq six years ago.
What does Brogan, 32, consider the worst of the physical trauma? “Hearing loss and the brain injury,” he said from his home in Knoxville, Tenn. He has “profound unusable hearing” in his right ear and severe hearing loss in his left, he said, along with constant ringing, or tinnitus, in his ears.
After the insurgent's bomb killed a soldier just behind Brogan – along with the person who was wearing the device – other U.S. troops quickly rushed Brogan's side and saw blood streaming from both ears, he said.
“You’ve been to a concert – you know how your ears are ringing afterward? It’s just like that my entire life,” Brogan said. “A lot of guys get home and they probably don’t even think about getting their hearing checked.
According the Department of Veterans Affairs, the most prevalent service-connected disabilities for veterans receiving federal compensation in 2011 were tinnitus and hearing loss, respectively, followed by PTSD.
"I suspect today’s generation of veterans – those who have been in a combat environment – probably have a higher severity of hearing loss (than past generations), especially with the explosions and the IEDs and the ruptured ear drums they’ve sustained,” said Brett Buchanan, a VA-accredited claims agent with Allsup, a national provider of services with disabilities.
Finally, with Thanksgiving later this week, I'll leave you with a feel-good story.
It is NOT a veteran's story today, but nevertheless I heard about it this morning and thought I'd pass it on.
WINDSOR — A number of Vermont prison inmates are helping some of the state’s needy families by processing thousands of pounds of potatoes destined to become part of Thanksgiving Day feasts.
For the last couple weeks inmates at the Southeast State Correctional Facility in Windsor have been cleaning, sorting, weighing and bagging thousands of pounds of potatoes that will be distributed via food banks in time for Thanksgiving.
“There are a lot of people who could use the extra food for the holidays,” said Matthew Mabe, 30, of Saxtons River who is serving a 4-year minimum sentence for a repeat drunk driving conviction.
Mabe runs a cleaner that helps brush the dirt off the potatoes before they are sorted, weighed and then bagged.
The project was conceived by the Morrisville-based nonprofit Salvation Farms that is working to “manage Vermont’s farm surplus,” said Executive Director Theresa Snow, who was helping process the potatoes on Monday.
On Monday during a visit by Gov. Peter Shumlin, Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito and others, the potatoes that were run through the processing machinery and bagged had already received a preliminary cleaning, to lower the dust level during the demonstration.
“What we have done here is created a partnership that will not only be about potatoes, but about hunger,” said Pallito who recently toured a food shelf and heard of a food shortage.
“It’s really a big win for the department and the guys that are in our custody to see that you can do things that are really productive, give back to the community and feel pretty darn good about it,” Pallito said. “Around this time of year when so many families are faced with hunger, these potatoes are going to go right on the table of some people who really, really need it, who would otherwise have access to very limited food products.”
The potatoes are provided by an organization called “Tuberville” that grows potatoes for donation in Vermont and Maine. The potatoes being processed at the Windsor prison are from Williamstown, said Ralph Perkins of Tuberville.
There’s nothing wrong with the potatoes, but for one reason or another they might not meet retail supermarket standards.
From all of us here at "Ask a Vet" to you....have a Happy Thanksgiving!